Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reflection on the Feast of the Holy Family December 30, 2007

Today is the feast of the Holy Family. The readings in todays Mass spoke of the importance of the Family. How important it is for us to note that the Cathechsm of the Church spoke about the "domestic church". Where the family is the basic agent of society in the nurture of the young. The family provides for the nurture while the children are growing in grace in knowledge and fear of the Lord.


The importance of the family is all the more made eloquent in the baptismal promises given by the parents and the godparents during the baptismal ceremony. Responses and promises are made in behalf of the Child. May parents and adults be reminded of their duty. Let us be shining examples for the Children in our family. Just as Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived the family life so let us also live the life of the Holy Family. Happy feast day.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Meditation on the THEOTOKOS

My Meditation on the Motherhood of Mary, the Mother of God

January 1 is a significant event in the Church not only because it is New Years Day but because it is celebrated as the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In this blog I would like to offer answers to the following questions: (1) Why is Mary, called the Mother of God, and (2) What is the significance of this attribution or title to the life of the Church?
Why is Mary, called the Mother of God? Some of our protestant friends may raise their voice in protest and may even say that it is blasphemous to call Mary, the mother of God. This protestation over the use of this title is based on some misconception about why Catholics call Mary the mother of God. We Catholics call Mary the Mother of God because the Son she bore was Jesus Christ who is both God and Man as far as the nature of his being is concerned, the Word incarnate who was “…God of God: Light of light: true God of true God. Begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our Salvation, came down from heaven.”[i] Furthermore the council of Ephesus has this to say: “"We confess, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and a body, begotten before all ages from the Father in his Godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary the Virgin according to his humanity, one and the same consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity, for a union of two natures took place. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy Virgin to be the Mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her". [ii] Hence the motherhood of God as bestowed in Mary does not mean that God has a beginning or end but it specifically applies to the mystery of incarnation. “The Word became Flesh” and Mary by her obedience and willingness to cooperate in the work of redemption became the Mother of Jesus, the second person in the Holy Trinity. The bond between mother and child is one of the closest of all types of human bonding. Thus in a more eloquent way, this mystery was expressed in the Scriptures thus: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”[iii] From this passage, the redemptive roles of Jesus and Mary were thus made explicit. In contemporary times we refer also to Mary as co-Redemptrix because of her union with Christ her Son. There can be no one from among us more intimate with Jesus in his life, passion, death and resurrection than Mary the Mother of God. Joy filled her heart when her Son was born, her heart marveled at the miracles, wonders and wisdom made manifest during his ministry, a dagger pierced her heart at the passion and death of her Son and a great hope and gladness filled her soul at the resurrection of her Son.
The Council of Ephesus was the first Ecumenical Council of the Church to define the role of Mary and ascribed to her the role of Theotokos literally “The bearer of God”. Why did the council of Ephesus used the term Theotokos in opposition to the term Christotokos or “Christ-bearer”.[iv] The use of the former term is significant because it affirms the indivisible nature of Christ. That Christ as the begotten of the Father from eternity has assumed human form in the incarnation and thus the “Word became flesh”. But the nature of Christ is not divided, he is one Jesus Christ, both God and Man. The person borne by the Virgin Mary is the One Christ, both Divine and Human. Hence we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary above anyone else for she, by the singular grace of God enjoys preeminence among all saints and angels owing to her participation in the Redemptive work of Christ. Her motherhood has its reference to the mystery of the Incarnation and not on the origin of God as eternal without beginning and without end. Because God, as the source of every thing is eternal, has no beginning and end and therefore in no need of a mother or a father.
To answer the second question, what is the significance of this mystery to the life of the Church? The catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Virgin Mary as the Eschatological Icon of the Church. “In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.”[v] Thus our very own devotion to the Mother of God is also rooted in scriptures when Mary said: ‘All generations shall call me blessed…” We honor Mary and we implore her intercession and prayers especially in our needs. This honor that we give to Mary is not the same adoration as we give to Jesus and to the Father. For we worship God and our devotion to Mary seeks to foster Love and Adoration of God. For how can we not honor whom God seeks to honor. For if the Old Adam and Eve cause the fall of humankind by their pride and disobedience, Christ the New Adam with the cooperation of Mary the New Eve ( and also the icon of the Church as the Bride of Christ), effected our redemption by obedience, humility and faith.
Fellow pilgrims, happy feast day and happy New Year 2007. Maranatha!

Yours a poor servant in Hearts of Jesus and Mary:
Herbert

[i] Nicene Creed
[ii] Formula of Union A.D. 431. As quoted in Catholic Answers. http://www.catholic.com/library/Mary_Mother_of_God.asp
[iii] Genesis 3:15 (Douay-Rheims Version)
[iv] Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theotokos
[v] As quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a9p6.htm

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Traditional Music

I read with interest the News item that appeared in the front page of the Inquirer dated December 23, 2007 entitled Latin Hymns Sung in Masses in Pampanga. I would like to congratulate the organizers of said novena masses which featured Latin Hymns. This revival of traditional celebrations brings us back to our cultural roots and this is important because our cultural heritage affirms our identity as Filipino Catholics. I would like to react however on the statement which said "...the pastorella has not been heard in many Pampanga towns for 40 years after Vatican II prescribed the use of the local languages in religious rites." Right after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council there was a widespread notion, that the council abolished or forbade the use of the Latin language in the Liturgy. But contrary to this notion, paragraph 54 of the Sacrosanctum Consilium emphasizes the importance and primacy of Latin in the Liturgy. The use of the vernacular is a matter of concession granted by the Church in order to foster an active and conscious participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Mass. The total use of pure vernacular in the Mass was never envisioned by the Second Vatican Council. The Council allowed the use of the vernacular on the variable parts of the Mass, such as the readings and some prayers. The variable parts of the mass are the parts that changes with the Liturgical Season and hence are used once in a while and the people may not be familiar with it hence the council suggests that these parts be said in the vernacular. While on the other hand the ordinary parts of the mass, i.e., the parts that does not change which are used every time the mass is said and familiar with the people such as the Confiteor, the Canon, Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Pater Noster and the Credo should be said in Latin. It is also very important to note that the Council while recognizing the worth of other forms of sacred music also recommended and set the primacy of the Gregorian chant. It is a type of music that has nourished the liturgical life of the Latin Rite Church since the time of St. Gregory the Great in the 4th Century until the Second Vatican Council. Even today the Gregorian Chant commands power and displays spiritual simplicity that cannot be matched by contemporary liturgical music in dignity and classicism. This is the main reason why I was amazed when the Bishop was quoted as saying in a phone interview that the Archdiocese of San Fernando “...tolerates the Latin hymns for as long as the songs for entrance, communion and recessional are in Filipino, Kapangpangan or English." I think that the Archdiocese of San Fernando (as well as the CBCP for that matter) should not only tolerate the Latin Hymns but should foster and promote the use of Latin in the Liturgy in obedience to the mandates of the Sacrosanctum Concilium. With the current agenda of the Supreme Pontiff to promote the “reform of the reformed” in matters of liturgy, I pray and hope that the Bishops of the Philippines will respond positively and enthusiastically. If we totally abandon the use of Latin and the Gregorian chants we surely will miss a lot. I think this is the main reason why some of our liturgical celebrations fail to attract or inspire people because of the shallowness and detachment from tradition. We should remember that the Latin and the Gregorian chant has a long history in the Church since the 5th century and it has richly nourished the lives of saints and the Church. To abandon or neglect its use is indeed lamentable and a great loss not only in the sense of culture and tradition but also in spirituality. Pope Benedict himself expressed this need to recover traditional practices when he said: “Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.” (Explanatory Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops that accompanies the Motu Propio Data on the use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to 1970.) I hope that Bishops and parish priests will be encouraged to revive this beautiful tradition. It is now time that our Church leaders should give emphasis on the worship of God through the proper celebration of the liturgy and fostering of the sacraments and catecheses. Learning Latin Hymns is not difficult. A simple but consistent catechesis of these forms will bring about the desired objective. This will perhaps not only draw the faithful back to the Church but will help promote spirituality and morality so badly needed by our society. If the hierarchy will energetically foster spirituality through the liturgy, the sacraments and devotional practices of the Church, there can be no reason why the Lay Faithful should not become spiritual themselves. Restoring and rediscovering our roots in Traditional Liturgy and Music is a way of fostering this spiritual and religious revival. Why do we have to neglect the tried and tested ways that has served well generations of Catholics for the novelty and fashion of the times that soon fades away? May our Bishops, Pastors and Religious help foster the revival of Liturgical Tradition so desired by Pope Benedict XVI.