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By: Erin Kisley

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “advice” is defined as guidance or recommendations concerning prudent future action, typically given by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative.

erin and joe 4

It’s actually kind of amusing, but when you become engaged (or have a child, I imagine), knowledgeable and authoritative individuals pop out of the woodwork. Suddenly, everyone who’s attended a wedding is doling out advice like participation awards in tee ball.

For those bride-to-be’s among us with a touch of pride, the temptation is to be secretly (or visibly) irritated and offended. And, I get it. This is your wedding. But, here’s my advice: Take a deep breath, smile and thank whoever is thoughtful and concerned enough to give you their time and attention. When you feel the urge to start tearing through downtown Arlington like King Kong, make an effort to remember that it’s all coming from a place of love. I know, easier said than done.

Truthfully, I have received (and continue to receive) a lot of quality advice…some of which I wish that I had listened to! Although, I have noticed that the bulk of it has more to do with our wedding and less to do with our impending marriage. In this time of transition and busyness, it’s easy to forget that there is much more to the ‘I do’ than the hydrangeas and the buttercream frosting.

So, for those who have years (or months) of wisdom to share, I would like advice that won’t expire on June 27, 2014: Guide me about how to pray with my spouse and with my (future) children. Recommend a Catholic book on womanhood. Tell me about your experience with Natural Family Planning. Help me to understand what being a loving, respectful and submissive wife actually looks like in the day-to-day. You can’t find that on theknot.com; I know, I tried.

I’m not trying to downplay the practical wedding planning tips; they are so useful! But, on behalf of all brides-to-be, offer us the advice you wish someone had offered to you.

This is the tenth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

Cornered

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

As on Palm Sunday, Psalm 118 occupies a prominent place on Easter Sunday.  At the Easter Vigil, it falls after the Gloria, between the New Testament reading and the Gospel.  Prime liturgical real estate, that.  Likewise it holds the privilege of being the Psalm for Easter Sunday Mass.  The Liturgy calls attention to verse 24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”  But verse 22 has great bearing on this feast as well:

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Resurrection by Fra Angelico courtesy of San Marco Museum, FlorenceThese words originally referred to the nation of Israel itself, and in particular to those returned from the Babylonian exile.  Under fierce persecution, that small and weak nation rebuilt the Temple, the Lord’s dwelling.  The great nations around little Israel scorned and destroyed her.  She was the stone rejected by the builders, by those who hold the levers of power in the world.  But by her return and rebuilding, she had now become the cornerstone – that is, the most significant nation, the foundation for God’s household.

Such was the original meaning.  Our Lord, however, takes these already significant words and applies them to Himself.  Days before His Passion, in a confrontation with the chief priests and Pharisees, He tells several parables to prophesy their loss of authority (cf. Mt 21).  To convey this harsh lesson He uses verses familiar to them:

Did you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’? (Mt 21:42).

He even interprets the reference for them: “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit” (Mt 21:43). Bad enough that He speaks about upsetting their authority, He even co-opts their psalms in the process!

Good Friday reveals Jesus Christ is the stone rejected by the builders.  Both the religious and the civil leaders – those who build society – rejected Him in the harshest way.  More importantly, and independent of their intentions, He had become the rejected stone by becoming sin itself, assuming the guilt and shame of all sin and of every sin.  Christ on the Cross is the rejected stone, unfit for any construction or dwelling.

Easter Sunday reveals Him, however, as the cornerstone, the foundation of God’s new creation.  Christ risen from the dead is the pattern for all who are to rise in Him.  The new life in which He rises is fit for every construction and establishes the Church as God’s dwelling place. “For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11).  On Him, on the basis of all He has accomplished and promised, we build lives of beauty and holiness.

But notice that His rejection is the principle of becoming the cornerstone. It is not simply that the builders rejected Him at first, then had a change of heart, and brought Him back as the cornerstone.  Rather, his rejection was the condition for Him becoming the cornerstone. Through – not despite, but through – that rejection, through His dereliction on the Cross, He becomes the cornerstone.  Or, to put it in other terms that Jesus Himself uses, His rejection was the seed falling to the earth and dying so as to bear fruit (Jn 12:24), the stone rejected so as to become the cornerstone.  Easter is not about Christ’s life after death but about His new life through death.

So also for each of us: Our sins have made us rejected stones – broken, divided, unfit for any building or construction.  But by entrusting to Him our sins – and indeed all our weaknesses and every wound – they become the occasion for forgiveness, grace and new life.  They become, in a sense, the material for new construction.  Again, it is not simply that once we were cut off from God by sin and now He has brought us back.  It is, rather, that He has made our sins – our rejection – the very occasion and place of our experiencing His salvation and the means by which He makes us a new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17).

Hence the purpose of our 40 days now at an end: to acknowledge and experience that rejection that sin has caused.  Only to the degree that we do so will He establish us as cornerstones.  But….having done so, He then reveals His glory through us. It is not the supposedly perfect – the chief priests and Pharisees – that the Lord chooses as the stones of His new creation.  It is, rather, those who have repented, who know themselves to be rejected stones: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32).  Only the repentant sinners are made cornerstones, foundations for God’s dwelling in the world.

This is His glory, the work that He alone can accomplish. On Easter, He alone takes us, rejected stones, and incorporates us into His dwelling place: “For by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes!”

By: Natalie Plumb

As a cradle Catholic, I did everything right. In grade school, I aced my classes, did extracurricular activities and was often called “Miss Goody Two-Shoes.”

I was an average child. Other than my family’s love for me, nothing about me seemed to be extraordinary, unique or even abnormal.

In fact, I searched for my identity in my friends. I was easily bossed around and did everything my best friend at the time told me to do. I would never speak up for myself. One year it got so bad that my teacher purposefully separated me from that friend so that I could find my own voice.

It didn’t work. We were back in the same class together the followingEUCHARIST SUSTAINS BELIEVERS, SAYS POPE JOHN PAUL II year. She convinced me of one thing after the other: There are ghosts on the metro if you look out of the glass when you’re in the tunnels; we won’t get in trouble if we sneak into the bamboo forest; curfew only applies to kids younger than us. On and on.

I even ate sand once because she told me to! Yes! This was a terrible idea because the gritty taste in my mouth would neither wash in or out. It kind of just stayed on my tongue. Sorry, off topic…

I think after the grasping-for-identity experiences like this that filled my life, God started shouting at me to pay attention.

At age 14, God the Father desired for me to be a true Child of God. And that meant change. That meant He wanted me to fill my identity with Him.

Children of God are unique. Children of God are odd. They fulfill the purpose God paved for them. Stretching the boundaries, defying the odds…Children of God are the difference that is good. Fulfilling a unique purpose is our calling. None of us is the same.

Thus, when Christ began entering my heart, when I truly began embracing His presence inside of me, I’ll admit it: The Eucharist rocked my world.

The Eucharist rocked my world.

I was finally different. I finally had a light literally shining in me that gave me meaning and purpose – meaning and purpose that came from my Father, through the Son.

jesus_communionFor an entire summer, I spent every day going to Mass (with the exception of Saturdays). At first, I was only going because my Sunday school teacher was nice and encouraged me to go. I went, but only to please her. But day after day of attending Mass and, after that, praying the rosary with lovely lay men and women (who seemed to me, as a young girl, to never, ever miss a day of Mass or the rosary, the holy witnesses that they are), God inched His way into my heart. And He stayed there.

Unless I go to Daily Mass and receive Him, the hole in my heart that the world digs out every once in a while begins to open again. Because the days I miss Daily Mass are usually the weeks when my attention span dwindles during Sunday’s Mass.

Today, Holy Thursday, fill your heart with Him. Try to do it with presence. He will fill you to the brim.

One summer, I made a sign that I later hung on my wall to remind me of the Truth that I was experiencing physically, emotionally and spiritually. It read:

In the world: Unfulfilled. In Christ: Overflowing.

That said, Holy Thursday is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates the institution — by Christ himself — of the Eucharist and of the priesthood.

Today, then, it is only appropriate that we go forth to receive this most profound of Sacraments: the Eucharist. The Host. The Body of Christ. His Flesh and Blood.

May today we pray:

Make my heart like unto thine.

Christ offers Himself to be a wafer, a piece of bread, a simple host…all so that we might receive Him.

In fact, Christ offers Himself to us so that we might receive each other. Each of us, uniquely and specifically, fulfills a divine role in this (potential) road to Heaven called life. Likewise, each of us plays that part as a part of the Body of Christ. His fingers, His hands, His heart, His eyelashes…You name it.

Some parts – some people in your life – feel unnecessary. But they are. In fact, each and every second, your interaction with them, and their interaction with you, is moving each of you either closer to, or farther from, the gates of Heaven.

Next week, I’ll expand on this idea of the Body of Christ, and how each and every part is integral in making us, as C.S. Lewis so delicately puts it in his The Weight of Glory: “…a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

By: Erin Kisley

Have you ever heard the words, “You May Now Kiss the Cross,” at a wedding? If you’re not living in Siroki-Brijeg, Herzegovina, there’s a decent chance that your answer is no. These words are part of a beautiful Croatian marriage tradition from this village that is slowly making its way throughout Europe and to the United States.[1]

CalcuttaHerald…A tradition that, while neither of us claims a Croatian heritage, Joe and I have decided to incorporate into our nuptials.

On our wedding day (shameless countdown update: we are 10 weeks away!), Joe and I will bring a crucifix with us to the altar. Our priest will bless it as I place my right hand on the crucifix and Joe places his hand over mine. He will cover our hands with his stole as we declare our vows to be faithful to one another. Then, together, we kiss the greatest image of love, the Cross.

While this probably makes us sound much holier than we are, the truth is, you don’t have to be up for canonization to acknowledge a reality that drives many modern couples apart: suffering. It’s no secret that we live in a culture that finds every excuse to avoid it. The wounds of financial strain, infertility, infidelity and bad days are made “better” by credit cards, in vitro fertilization, divorce and the like.

Yet, if we desire to experience the fullness of love and the true meaning of marriage, we will see our crosses as the means of getting ourselves and our families to Heaven. For it is the cross that helps us to grow in maturity, self-discipline and true charity. This powerful Croatian tradition reminds us that if the bride and groom abandon their cross, they are essentially abandoning Jesus and His plan for their lives.

After the ceremony (and the photos, reception and goodbyes), we will bring the crucifix back and give it a place of honor in our home. It will become the focal point of our family. When misfortune or conflict arise, with faith, we will seek help there, before the Cross. We’ll get on our knees and in front of Jesus will weep our tears, pour out our hearts, and seek the help of Him who died for us.

Isn’t this beautiful? Did I mention that Siroki-Brijeg has no recorded divorces? Not one.  Coincidence? I think not.

In his recently issued pastoral letter on artificial contraception, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb., writes: “We live in a world short on love. Today love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things and comfort and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.”

I ask: In whom can we find a greater example of love and meaning than Our Jesus, crucified?


[1] Loveoffering.com, 2002.

 

This is the ninth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

By: Sr. Clare Hunter

Have you ever wondered why the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week don’t get a special name? I have. We have quite the entrance on Passion (Palm) Sunday by publicly processing, singing and carrying palms. We read the very long Gospel and wince as we shout out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” After the celebration of an intense liturgy, it feels like we are just getting started, and then we have to stop for three days, only to rev up again for the big line up of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and finally Easter Sunday.

Holy_Week

For many years, my Community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, have put a special spiritual focus on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. By looking at the readings and the Gospels and meditating on the life of Christ as He anticipates His passion, we take each day and focus on a particular mystery to help us prepare for the Triduum.

Monday is a day of extravagance. “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (Jn 12:3). Mary Magdalene gives all to Jesus, not merely the expensive oil, but her very self. She uses her hands and hair to anoint Him, affecting each person present. This extravagant gesture of her love for Jesus is merely an imitation of His extravagant offering of Himself.  We too are called to imitate Christ in offering our lives to the Father. We are challenged on the Monday of Holy Week to look at our own acts of generosity and pouring out of self. Are we giving our best to serve God and others? Are we grateful and receptive to the extravagant love of God and others?

“So Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly’” (Jn 13:27). On Tuesday, we ponder the reality of what must be completed in order for the chain of events to transpire for our redemption. Jesus Christ knows what must be done in order to declare: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (Jn 13:31). This day may offer us an opportunity to put into order those obstacles which might be hindering our openness to the graces of Holy Week, or to tasks that need to be completed to free us to pray and be present to the liturgies of the Triduum. This might be the day we stop procrastinating and decide to go to confession, forgive others or make a discernment that we have been avoiding.

Mary-Washes-Jesus-s-Feet-jesus-11078625-635-450Wednesday’s reading from Isaiah speaks of the Man who has been anointed to be a voice for God, will be abused, yet with the Father’s help, will complete the mission of redemption. Jesus tells the disciples: “My appointed time draws near,” as He orders the Passover meal. As Jesus instructs his disciples, and confronts Judas, there is a sense that Christ has embraced His mission. He knows that He alone can redeem man in accordance with the Father’s Will. Wednesday of Holy Week is a perfect day to spend time reflecting on our own God-given mission. We share solidarity with Jesus in the joys, fears and determination that accompany embracing our personal cross. This is a day of “aloneness” before the Father. We are preparing to say: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

I am so grateful that my Community has looked to these “unnamed” days as a way to enter into a deeper understanding and celebration of Holy Week. The sequence of the week is a natural progression in preparing our minds and hearts for the sacred Triduum. On Passion Sunday, we publically show that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the King and Son of God, who exemplifies the Father’s extravagant love. How fitting to have the next day to ponder this mystery. We instinctually would want to respond to that love and know the compulsion to complete the tasks and events which will set in motion an adequate response. Quickly, we become aware that we alone, with the help of the Father, must complete this act of love. It is with this in mind that we enter into the Triduum, reflecting on the cost of our redemption and the profundity of Christ’s body and blood freely given to us in the Eucharist. Blessings on this sacred week.

By: Deacon Marques Silva

Family gatherings are a particularly joy-filled event for me. I get to catch-up on how everyone is doing (sometimes what they are doing) as well as spending some quality time with family. Inevitably, an aunt or uncle will say, “Remember when……” and all the nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws (and out-laws) will gather around to hear the tale. We laugh, smile, sometimes even cry remembering our loved ones whom we have lost but always, in the end, embrace and give thanks for each other and for…remembering. Holy Week is like that for Christians. In fact, we have a special word for it: anamnesis.

The Greek word literally means to “call to mind’ or “recollect.” Among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, the word anamnesis is connected to the consecration of the bread and wine which then are transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. It is literally the prayer of remembrance in which the family of God calls to mind the Lord’s passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. It is the high point of the Divine Liturgy that re-collects our thoughts and focuses us on recalling that what Christ did visibly on earth, He continues to do invisibly through the Eucharist. Holy Week is an extended anamnesis.

Cross

Now, I realize that sometimes it is difficult to see the golden thread that links all the days of the Triduum together – except as a piece of ancient history. The question from my kids and the teens I work with is how do we enter into this “recollection” and apply it is us. After much thought, prayer, and exegesis (yuck!), I thought I would offer a few thoughts and meditations to assist you along the way. My hope is that they will draw you deep into the saga and the greatest love story ever known that we call Holy Week.

My Preparation for the Triduum:

Spy Wednesday

Christ Prepares for a Battle to the Death

Holy Thursday Morning: Anointed For Battle

Holy Thursday Evening: Mass of the Lord’s Supper – Sustenance for the Battle

Engaged in Mortal Combat

Good Friday

Apparent Victory actually Spells Defeat

Holy Saturday: Apparent Victory has the Smell of Defeat

Easter Vigil: The Song of victory in the Stillness of the Night

Lord is a Warrior and Warrior is His Name

The Easter Garden: Death = Victory

This post originally appeared on Deacon Silva’s personal blog, The Q Continuum

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

At our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, we hear these familiar words: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest! (Mt 21:9) We know them, of course, from the Mass. But to appreciate their significance in that context – and beyond – we need to understand both their original meaning and their place on Palm Sunday.

Palm SundayFirst, their original context. The words come from Psalm 118, commonly understood to have been composed in the 6th century B.C. for the dedication of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. The Psalm was subsequently used in pilgrimage processions up to the Temple for the Feast of Booths. As the people ascended to the Temple they sang of the Lord’s fidelity and goodness to His people. Reaching the Temple gates, they cried out, Open the gates of righteousness; I will enter and thank the Lord (118:19). And then the priests would greet the pilgrims: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord (Ps 118:26).

So that phrase, so familiar to us in reference to Jesus Christ, originally referred to the Temple pilgrims. Only those who approached in the name of the Lord – that is, having entrusted themselves to the Lord – could enter the Temple. Over the centuries, however, the meaning of the phrase changed. It came to be associated with the long-awaited Messiah’s Temple entrance. By our Lord’s time the verse was charged with Messianic meaning. Thus for the crowds to cry out Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest! was not just to greet Jesus, but to proclaim Him as the Messiah. No wonder then that the Pharisees objected and asked Him to silence the crowds (cf. Lk 19:38).

So the crowds used this phrase for our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem. But Jesus Himself applies it to another event: His second coming. After the Palm Sunday entrance our Lord laments over Jerusalem as He foresees its coming destruction:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ (Mt 23:37-39).

They failed to recognize Him as the Messiah when He first entered Jerusalem – mercifully and meekly, riding on a donkey. As a result they will recognize Him only when He comes in power and glory, for judgment, on the last day. Then they will say with fear and trembling what they should have said earlier with joy and exultation: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

The verse therefore has these three meanings: the original, centuries before Christ’s birth; the messianic, as He enters Jerusalem; and the final, when He comes in glory. The Church’s Liturgy, however, adds still another meaning. In the Mass, we use the verse to acknowledge another coming of the Lord, between Palm Sunday and the Day of Judgment. As the Catechism explains, the acclamation “is taken up by the Church in the ‘Sanctus’ of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover” (CCC 559). Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, we pray as we prepare to encounter Him in the Eucharist. In the Extraordinary Form the singing of the Sanctus is often divided such that these words come after the Consecration. Thus immediately after Jesus has been made present sacramentally in the Eucharist, the choir responds on behalf of all, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Whatever the details of the various traditions, the common practice is clear: to greet the Eucharistic entrance of Jesus as the crowds greeted Him in Jerusalem and as all will hail Him on the last day.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem centuries ago. Now we greet Him in the Eucharist as He again comes to us humbly, meekly. He comes to us not visible, but hidden under the form of bread and wine; not riding on an ass, but (even more humbly) in the hands of a priest. At every Mass we have the opportunity to imitate the crowds in Jerusalem that hailed Him in His meekness. Interestingly, the ancient entrance chant for Palm Sunday refers to the children (pueri hebraeorum) who ran out to meet our Lord. That detail indicates the disposition we should have at Mass. We ought to be as simple and unaffected as children in greeting our Lord. Leaving aside all sophistications and pretensions, knowing full well our smallness and need for a Savior, we sing to Him plainly and joyfully.

Jesus will return to judge the world at a day and hour we do not know. Our greeting Him at Mass is ordered toward that moment. We greet His humble entrance at Mass so that we can greet His glorious and powerful return at the end of the world. Indeed, the manner of our greeting Him on the last day depends on how simply and confidently we say at Mass, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

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