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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.

By: Natalie Plumb

For once, a Hollywood star finally got it all right. With lyrics that claim:

I get to be the other half of you

…This is certainly nothing like a Rihanna or Miley Cyrus love song.

It’s pretty much a wedding vow.

When I first heard it pop on the radio while driving, I had to do a double-take. I recognized Sara Bareilles’ voice, but it seemed odd that a song so profound, and with lyrics so true to the definition of authentic love, would be playing on just any ol’ station (that doesn’t cater its broadcasts to family-friendly values, or things of the sort).

In marriage, a couple becomes one flesh. …Emotionally, financially, spiritually, intellectually, and a whole bunch of more -ally words. The couple becomes one. Hence, I get to be the other half of you. I get to be part of you. We get to become one flesh. All of this…in a pop song?

But there it was on 94.7 FM (which is all about “Today’s best hits, without the rap”). And blasting because I turned the volume way up.

This truly is a lifelong love letter that bears an uncanny resemblance to faithful prose a young groom might write to his sweetheart bride (or vice versa).

People are already claiming “I Choose You” for their walk-down-the-aisle. They are already ecstatic about what the lyrics in this song mean.

If love is like this, then who can stop it? If love truly means I will become yours and you will become mine, as Chris Tomlin proclaims, too, in his Our Godthen who could ever stop us?

If love really means…

Let the bough break, let it come down crashing
Let the sun fade out to a dark sky
I can’t say I’d even notice it was absent

…because the person you love is overwhelming any cares you might have in this world, then perhaps there is some greater love out there for each of us. Maybe what pop culture calls love’s illusion isn’t an illusion at all.

Maybe the longing in our hearts for this kind of love — maybe every female’s, and even male’s, attraction to — this kind of song is because there is something written on our hearts that calls us to something more. …To a Greater Love. …To a love that only a lifelong love song – an eternity, in fact, with Him – could fulfill.

The waiting sacrifice it talks about (And as long as it takes…I will prove my love to you) is unmistakably similar to the tone Christ takes with us as He approaches us daily, knocking at each of our doors.

I’ll unfold before you

In fact, He would rather die on a cross than spend eternity without you.

I could live by the light in your eyes

We all have doubt at one time or another in our hearts that love — that God — can change anything for us.

There was a time when I would have believed them
If they told me you could not come true
Just love’s illusion

But the transition that takes place after this love is found is — just like that of two lovers joined in the Sacrament of Matrimony, or in the taking of Holy Vows with the Spouse of Christ — is life-altering.

But then you found me and everything changed
And I believe in something again

Not only that, but following this transition, the spouse desires solely to shout their union to the nations.

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
I choose you

Let your spouse, and allow Christ, to be the other half of you.

Lyrics to “I Choose You” in full:

Let the bough break, let it come down crashing
Let the sun fade out to a dark sky
I can’t say I’d even notice it was absent
Cause I could live by the light in your eyes

I’ll unfold before you
What I’ve strung together
The very first words
Of a lifelong love letter

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
(Yeah)

There was a time when I would have believed them
If they told me you could not come true
Just love’s illusion
But then you found me and everything changed
And I believe in something again

My whole heart
Will be yours forever
This is a beautiful start
To a lifelong love letter

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you

We are not perfect
We’ll learn from our mistakes
And as long as it takes
I will prove my love to you

I am not scared of the elements
I am under-prepared, but I am willing
And even better
I get to be the other half of you

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
I choose you

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

While the cost of a wedding in the United States has reached an all-time high, the price of sex is at a record-breaking low.

Who’s to blame? Is there such a thing as the “Economics of Sex?”

Comment below and let me know what you think.

This is the eighth 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: Rev. Paul Scalia

“Give me justice, O God, and plead my cause against a nation that is faithless.

From the deceitful and cunning rescue me, for you, O God, are my strength.” Psalm 43:1

This Sunday is the fifth Sunday of Lent, formerly known as Passion Sunday.  On this day, the tone of the readings and prayers for Mass becomes more intense as we enter the last two weeks of Lent.  The tradition of veiling statues and sacred images, still observed in many parishes, also conveys this change of tone.  In times past, this Sunday was also known as Iudica Sunday, after the first words of the entrance antiphon: Iudica me, Deus – literally, Judge me, O God.  In the current translation it says, Give me justice, O God (Psalm 43:1).  This title is probably not as familiar as Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday.  For some reason, Judge Me Sunday never really caught on.

But this verse is placed at the head of the Mass for a reason – and it merits our attention.

As is the case with other psalms, this one has three distinct historical “moments.”  First, the original composition by David, who appealed to the Lord to deliver him from the hostile nations in which he found himself.  Second, fulfillment in the Person and life of Jesus.  As a faithful Jew our Lord would have prayed this Psalm.  Perhaps He prayed these words in the Garden of Gethsemane: Give me justice, O God…  Whatever the case, He speaks them perfectly, as no one else can.  He alone can appeal perfectly to the Father to be delivered from a faithless nation.  He alone merits to be rescued from the deceitful and cunning.

Third, the continued fulfillment of the verse in the life of the Church.  As the Body of Christ the Church gives voice to this cry for justice and for deliverance from her enemies.  In His Body, our Lord continues to suffer persecution and cries out, Give me justice, O God, and plead my cause against a nation that is faithless.  From the deceitful and cunning rescue me, for you, O God, are my strength.

Pope Francis ConfessionThere is still another way of understanding this verse: our own personal praying of it.  Indeed, it serves as a good way to prepare for the Sacrament of Penance.  The Douay Rheims translation phrases it powerfully: Judge me, O God.  Yes, in a sense when we go to confession we invite God to judge us.  We anticipate the final judgment by accusing ourselves.  One manner of beginning confession is to say: “I accuse myself of the following sins.”  We desire His judgment because we know that it is tempered by mercy.  The current translation – Vindicate me, O God – gets at the same point.  We enter the confessional to be vindicated – not from any external persecution or enemy but from something far worse: our own sins.

Plead my cause against a nation that is faithless. In a sense, we confess our sins in order to plead our cause.  By sin we fall into the faithlessness of the world.  We depart from God’s People and take up with the faithless.  By Confession we ask that God correct this – that He Himself plead our cause as children of God to be brought back home.  We desire that He (as the DR translation says) distinguish us from the faithless, most importantly from our fallen selves.  Indeed, Penance is very much a matter of distinguishing.  We distinguish our selves from our sinful actions.  We distinguish the sinner – namely each of us – from the sin.  And knowing our own actions to be insufficient, we beg God to distinguish, to separate us from what is incompatible with being children of God.

From the deceitful and cunning rescue me.  Technically, this is a plea to be rescued from the one who is deceitful and cunning.  Each of us can probably think of some such person in our lives.  But the greatest threat to us – the most deceitful and cunning – is not outside of us, but within.  Something within us – what Saint Paul calls the “unspiritual man” (1 Cor 2:14) – leads us into sin.  Our fallen human nature, deceiving and cunning, makes us our own worst enemies.  On the path to sin we invent all kinds of justifications and rationalizations for our immorality.  We deceive ourselves; we cunningly blind ourselves to the wickedness we embrace.  Thus, we need to be delivered from ourselves: From my deceitfulness and cunning rescue me.

In two weeks we unite ourselves with Christ in His Passion. To do so we must know what it means to be persecuted by sin.  And we cannot come to that realization until and unless we confess our own sinfulness and acknowledge ourselves as our own persecutors, our own worst enemies.  There are still plenty of opportunities for Confession in the remaining two weeks.  If you have not done so this Lent, make a good confession.  Beg Him to vindicate you, to plead your cause, to rescue – and thus say to Him: You, O God, are my strength.

By: Sr. Clare Hunter

With the Hobby Lobby suit going on in the Supreme Court, there is a great deal of “The Pill” in the news. It is certainly a hot topic, with statistics, medical information and lots of personal opinions coming at us left and right. Environmentalists and scientists have been warning us for years that women’s use of artificial hormonal birth control is not a private matter. In fact, it has worldwide effects. Not only are there moral implications regarding the use of artificial contraception to prevent pregnancy, but what about the moral implications of using a drug that can cause cancer in others, or change the ecosystem?

Studies show that birth control pills have a negative effect on the environment, and primarily the water system. Scientists report that “many decades of research have shown that when released into the environment, a group of hormones known as estrogens, both synthetic and naturally occurring, can have a serious influence on wildlife. This includes the development of intersex characteristics in male fish, which diminishes fertility and fecundity.”[1] Water treatment plants are not able to break down the hormones excreted by women who are using the Pill: High estrogen levels have been found in rivers in Paris, and studies seem to show that in some places the levels of estrogen found in waterways are high enough to affect human health.[2]

Prescription NeededHere’s a fascinating study that questions the link between prostate cancer in men and the Pill. David Margel and Neil Fleshner, of the University of Toronto in Ontario, looked at contraceptive pill usage and incidence of prostate cancer in 88 countries around the world. In every case, they found a significant correlation between the two.[3] Although studies continue to look at various possibilities, and findings are inconclusive, the scientists consider this a valid and strong component in the mystery of the increase in prostate cancer; the fact is that estrogen-like chemicals pass into the urine and ultimately make their way into the water supply.

There are consistent reports that show that the environment and human health are being detrimentally affected by women’s use of chemical contraceptives, which has environmentalists around the world searching for solutions. If findings continue to reveal these links, govern­ments will need to step in to enact laws and regulations to protect innocent citizens and future generations.

The Catholic Church has spoken consistently on the need to protect and care for creation, as it is God’s gift. Pope John Paul II stated: “Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith.”[4] There is a moral responsibility to care for God’s creation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”[5]


[1] Susan Jobling and Richard Owen, “Ethinyl Oestradiol in the Aquatic Environment,” in Late Lessons from Early Warnings: Science, Precaution, Innovation (Copenhagen, Denmark: Europa Environment Agency, 2013), 279.

[2] Wynne Parry, “Water Pollution Caused by Birth Control Poses Dilemma,” Live Science, May 23, 2012; and “7 Surprising Facts about the Pill,” Live Science, June 21, 2011.

[3] David Margel and Neil E. Fleshner, “Oral Contraceptive Use Is Associated with Prostate Cancer: An Ecological Study,” BJM Open 1.2 (2011), http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/1/2/e000311.full.

[4] John Paul II, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace (January 1, 1990), n. 15.

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2415.

By: Erin Kisley

The lights were dim; I could feel the all too familiar melody beating through the floor as the crowd grew around me. I tried to find a friendly face, but all eyes were fixed forward. I paused, preparing for what would surely be a battle, noticing the stature of those around me. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, bent my knees and leapt forward, hand outstretched.

bouquet

The next thing I remember was being quickly shuttled off of the floor (almost like I was FLOTUS being protected by the Secret Service), flashing a nervous smile and posing for a quick picture. Then it was over.

I, Erin, was the vanquisher of All the Single Ladies. I caught the bouquet.

You laugh, but I’ve seen a woman who desired so badly to be engaged to her boyfriend shed tears (not the happy ones) over this. Why? It was once believed that the bride was especially lucky on her wedding day, thus, her flowers were believed to be a souvenir of that luck and were highly sought after. Despite the lore of this tradition, this former staple is rapidly dying out (surprise, surprise).

Here is why I will NOT toss the bouquet on my wedding day:

As a woman who attended countless post-undergrad weddings, I always thought the tossing of the bouquet while Beyoncé’s All the Single Ladies played in the background was so…undignified. What I’m saying is: Is this the best way we can think of to celebrate the beauty and self-worth of our (single) female friends? Parading them in front of our guests and making them fight like wild beasts…for flowers? Is that behavior really consistent with our call as Catholic women? You’re probably thinking: “It’s just a tradition. Lighten up!” But hey, arranged marriages were once tradition, too. Raise your hand if you want to bring that back.

Believe it or not, I once heard of a bride sitting on the back of the Best Man (who was perched on all fours) while her groom removed the lace garter with his teeth. Am I the only one who thinks that is practically pornographic? Your nearest and dearest are watching what should be an intimate moment between you and your groom. What in world is Catholic about that? You might be thinking: “Well, what if we just toss the garter without removing it in front of everyone?” Again I ask, is this upholding the dignity of the (single) men? Requesting they vie for the bride’s undergarment like a piece of meat?

Friends, let’s esteem our friends and our nuptial vows. Let’s buck the tasteless traditions and start some new ones!

This is the seventh 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.

April Fools!

By: Deacon Marques Silva

April Fools’ Day is a favorite in my house. The kids and I have always enjoyed playing pranks and poking a little fun at each other. As they grew, the pranks became far more intricate and thus required advanced planning. Is it bad that we sometimes go shopping to prepare for this day? Anyway, a few years ago the inevitable happened. Our youngest asked: “How did April Fools’ Day get started?” I, of course, replied: “Umm, no clue son. Let me research.”

april-fools-day-1-coloring-pageEventually, I stumbled across the answer in the good ‘ole Catholic Source Book – and as always, it was enlightening. Turns out that it is Jewish tradition that we have inherited:

“Tradition has it that April 1 is April Fools’ Day because it was on this day that Noah sent doves from the ark to check for dry land before the flood had completely abated. (Actually, it was the first of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year and roughly equivalent to our April.) This first dispatch, of course, was a wild goose chase, to use a fowl metaphor. Even though Noah might object to the implication that he was just fooling, the doves’ frustrated mission is commemorated in the April Fools’ tricks of today.”[1]

There you have it. And now, I need to go prepare for a few more pranks. Nota bene: If you are going to use glow tape to form the outline of a body on your kid’s floor in the middle of the night — and accidentally wake them up – using an LED light to charge the tape provides the best results. Enjoy yourself and have a little fun this Lent!

 


[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 349

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