Thursday, January 23, 2014

26th January 2014 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

26th January 2014 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

God promised to confer glory on the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations' by shining a great light upon them, a light that would dispel the darkness of those living in a land of deep shadow (see Isa. 9:1-2). This light would confer glory upon them by increasing their gladness, giving them joy in God's presence and freeing them from the burden of the oppression weighing upon their shoulders (Isa. 9:3-4). This light would be a child born to us, a son given to us, a ruler who would be called 'Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace' (Isa. 9:6). By withdrawing to Galilee and settling 'in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali' (Matt. 4:12-13), Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy. He is the light that shines on the land of deep shadow. He confers glory on the land.

The darkness and shadow over the land is the reign of sin and its wages, death (Rom. 6:23). The fear of death overwhelms and oppresses us, robbing us of joy, of the sense of God's presence. This darkness can only be dispelled by Christ, 'the light of the world' (John 8:12). He alone can disarm sin of its seductive hold over us, conquer Satan, and free us from the fear and bondage of death (Heb. 2:15). Jesus, 'the resurrection and the life' (John 11:25), shines his light upon us, thereby filling us with gladness, freedom and the joy of God's presence, and confers glory upon us.

Christ's light will dispel the darkness of sin and death in our lives as we enter into his kingdom through repentance and then follow him as his disciples. Repentance is necessary for we have to choose decisively to leave the old kingdom of sin and darkness and enter into the new kingdom of God's Son, the kingdom of truth and light and holiness. We must renounce all the ways of the kingdom of darkness, rejecting sin's allurements and seductions:

'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' (v. 17). In order to fill us with gladness, the joy of his presence and freedom from the oppression of sin and death, Jesus further commands us, 'Follow me' (v. 19). Then, as we follow him, he will confer glory upon us.

God Bless

Friday, January 17, 2014

Church Architecture

I’ve recently been asked to explain a little about the inside and general architecture of our Church here at St-Denis.  It seems as providencial that our Church is very close in design to the classic, historical cruciform architecture which can be generally understood to be as the diagram below.
As you can see the ‘Nave’ is where the members of the church sit during Mass.  It is the church proper (ie the believers coming to worship).  As you look around, you’ll notice that the windows of our Church that are on the left side of us when facing the Altar are depictions of the writers of the four Gospels along with the Apostle Thomas who is the one who finally believed in His Resurrection after touching the wounds of Jesus and then said “My Lord and my God” (John 20-27-18).  The right side is traditionally thought of as the Epistle side.  In our case though, our windows depict Jesus before the beginning of His public ministry, that is, before He was baptized.  From front to back, we see St. Elizabeth whom the newly pregnant Mary went to visit, St John the Bapist in his sacloth tunic, Mary mother of Jesus and St Joseph.

The North Transept can be seen as the confessional area of our church on the left and the South Transept is the small ante-room at the right.  The Narthex would be our miniature library just inside the main doors of the Church.

There are many symbolic meanings to the various parts of the church building, as it does pretty much everything else in the world.  The roof symbolizes charity, which covers a multitude of sins; the floor symbolizes the foundation of faih and the humility of the poor; the columns represents the Apostles, Bishops and Doctors (there are 12 of them in our church – 12 apostles); the vaulting represents the preachers who bear up the dead weight of man’s infirmity heavenwards; and the beams represent the champions of ecclesiastical right who defend it with the sword.  The nave symbolizes Noah’s Ark and the Barque of St. Peter, outside of which no one is saved. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

I’ll finish with a quote from St Thomas Aquinas on the need for buildings of worship.  He states in the Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae that just as the King needs a special house, so also we build one for God, not that He needs “a tabernacle or temple to be set up…but men who worship him are corporeal beings and for their sake, there was need for a speacial tabernacle or temple set up .. (so that) coming together with the thought that the place was set aside for the worship of God they might approach with greater reverence.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014


We celebrate the baptism of Jesus on this Sunday Mass and so seems appropriate to have a look at what the Baptism that Jesus instituted as a sacrament really does to those who accept it in faith.

Let’s start with Old Testament book of Ezekiel which states:

I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. …I will put my spirit within you . (Ez 36:25-27)

“I will sprinkle clean water” – And so with this outward sign using water we see that God gives us His spirit.  What else does God promise us?  He promises us that through this sprinkling we will be cleansed of all our impurities.  Is this prophecy truly made alive in the New Testament through the sacrament of Baptism?  Let’s compare what God said through Ezekiel to what God said through Peter at Pentecost.

Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2:38).

Ezekiel said: “I will sprinkle clean water
Peter said: “be baptized

Ezekiel said: “[I will] cleanse you from all your impurities
Peter said: “for the forgiveness of your sins
Ezekiel said: “I will put my spirit within you
Peter said: “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

It seems quite undeniable that Ezekiel’s prophecy is perfectly fulfilled in the sacrament of Baptism.  Because of His promise from Ezekiel we now know that the Grace of God comes during the sacrament of Baptism but what else does baptism do?

We know through Scripture that baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ.   For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13)

Baptism brings us in communion with each other by becoming members of the One Body of Christ.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal 3:27)

We are brought into the Body of Christ, the Church. 

And he is the head of the body, the church (Col 1:18)


And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph 1:22-23)

Since we are baptized into the one body of Christ and we now know that Christ’s Body is the Church means that baptism brings us into the Church.  And this is why there is no salvation outside the Church because there is no salvation outside of Christ.

Baptism is the New Covenant fulfillment of the Old Covenant symbol of circumcision.  As the Hebrews circumcised those for entrance into God’s Covenant with Israel, so too does the New Covenant fulfillment of circumcision bring entrance into the New Covenant of God to His Church through baptism.

In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God. (Col 2:11-12)

If eight-day old children could enter the Old Covenant through circumcision via the faith of their parents how much more so can infants become adopted children of God through the New Covenant circumcision, baptism?  The New Covenant is much more inclusive than the Old seeing as the New can include the gentiles as opposed to those of the line of Abraham.

We have seen that baptism fulfills the Old Covenant practice of circumcision (Col 2:11-12).  Baptism was prophesied by Ezekiel to bring graces through the sprinkling of water (Ez 36:25-27) and washes away sins (Ez 36:26; Acts 2:38). 

What else is baptism for?  Well, is baptism necessary for salvation?  The answer, very plainly is YES.  “…eight in all, were saved through water.  This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.” (1 Pet 3:20-21).  Pretty simple.  As plain as it can get.  Jesus taught this also in the Gospel of John

Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again." Nicodemus doesn’t understand and so Jesus repeats himself, He says "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." (John 3:3-5)

One is born again through baptism, and that through baptism one can enter the kingdom of God, the Church…

Remember though, that the Church also teaches that  it“…does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.(CCC 1257) 

And that is why the Church can teach that “"Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.” (CCC 1260)

And so we see that baptism brings Graces from God (Acts 2:38), washes away sins (Acts 2:38), we enter into a covenant with God through baptism (Col 2:11-12), and we become Christians through baptism (1 Cor 12:13) by becoming members of the Church as through a door (Eph 4:4).  And baptism is instituted by Jesus Christ Himself when He sent out the disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mat 28:19)

God Bless

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Christmas Song

Everybody knows what the Twelve Days of Christmas are, right? After all, we've been singing the Christmas song since we were old enough to talk:

On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

A partridge in a pear tree.

As the song progresses, the lucky recipient piles up gifts, each day receiving what he or she received the day before, as well as a new item—or rather items, since the generous giver pegs the quantity of his gifts to the number of the days of Christmas:

 •Two turtledoves •Three French hens •Four collie birds (blackbirds; often mispronounced as "calling birds") •Five golden rings •Six geese a-laying •Seven swans a-swimming •Eight maids a-milking •Nine ladies dancing •Ten lords a-leaping •Eleven pipers piping •Twelve drummers drumming

But wait! There's more. In 1995, Fr. Hal Stockert, a Byzantine Catholic priest from Granville, New York, published a short piece on the website of the Catholic Information Network entitled The Twelve Days of Christmas: An Underground Catechism.  Father Stockert claimed that the "delightful nonsense rhyme set to music . . . had a quite serious purpose when it was written." Referring to the years 1558-1829, when the practice of Catholicism was officially outlawed in England, Father Stockert claimed to have uncovered evidence that "'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was written in England as one of the 'catechism songs' to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith." Each of the gifts, Father Stockert declared, represented one of the truths of the Catholic Faith:

 •1 patridge in a pear tree = Jesus Christ, the Son of God •2 turtledoves = the Old and New Testaments •3 French hens = the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity •4 calling birds = the four gospels and/or the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) •5 golden rings = the first five books of the Old Testament •6 geese a-laying = the six days of creation •7 swans a-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and/or the seven sacraments •8 maids a-milking = the Eight Beatitudes •9 ladies dancing = the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit •10 lords a-leaping = the Ten Commandments •11 pipers piping = the 11 faithful disciples (minus Judas, who betrayed Christ) •12 drummers drumming = the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed

There's only one problem: As David Emery, the Guide to Urban Legends, explains in Is 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' an Underground Catechism Song?, Father Stockert had no evidence to back up his claims. As Father Stockert correctly notes, "to be caught with anything in *writing* indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, or shortened by a head—or hanged, drawn and quartered," yet almost all of the points of doctrine that young Catholic children supposedly needed "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to help them memorize were shared with the Anglican Church. Moreover, there are glaring errors in Father Stockert's list: He uses the mistaken "calling birds," which matches up much more nicely with the four evangelists than the correct "collie birds" does; and the Catholic Church recognizes 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit, not nine.

For more information on why we can be sure "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was not an "underground catechism song," see David Emery's article and a similar piece (though with additional information) at Called to document his claims, and finding himself unable to do so, Father Stockert himself eventually added a P.S. to his article:

P.S. It has come to our attention that this tale is made up of both fact and fiction. Hopefully it will be accepted in the spirit it was written. As an encouragement to people to keep their faith alive, when it is easy, and when any outward expressions of their faith could mean their life. Today there are still people living under similar conditions, may this tale give them courage, and determination to use any creative means at their disposal to keep their faith alive.

Despite Father Stockert's own acknowledgment of his mistake, years later Catholics in the United States (in particular) continue to spread this urban legend every Christmas season, and well-intentioned priests and parish secretaries dutifully reprint it in their parish bulletins. While little harm (other than the perpetuation of historical misinformation) is likely to come from the "Twelve Days of Christmas" myth, it would be better to use that space in the bulletin to encourage parishioners to celebrate the real Twelve Days of Christmas—the period between Christmas Day and Epiphany, in which we celebrate some of the most important, interesting, and spiritual symbolic feasts of the entire liturgical year.

God Bless