Liturgy Corner

I Am the Bread of Life

Carmel Bulletin, 5 August 2018

The usual semicontinuous reading of Mark’s gospel during Ordinary Time in Year B is always put on hold at this point of the year while we listen to chapter 6 from John.  John chooses not to repeat the recount of the Last Supper that we see in the other gospels.  Instead, John the chapter 6 reflection on the Eucharist that begins with the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.

The connection of this event with Jesus’ teaching that he is the bread of life reminds us that the Eucharist is a meal.  Like the miraculous feedings of the gospels, the Eucharist is for us food and drink given to us by God.  It is both thanksgiving and nourishment for those who follow Christ.  It shows us that there is no limit to God’s giving – we will all receive what we need, with plenty to spare.

Jesus also explains to the people, however, that the manna their ancestors ate, however, did not give eternal life.  Eternal life is the gift offered to us through the death and resurrection of Christ.  Sharing in the Eucharist, therefore, is also to share in the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus ends the sacrifices of the Old Testament by offering the one new and eternal sacrifice of his own body and blood.

14 - Anointing of Altar 3
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv anoints our new altar at its dedication, 17 December 2017

The design of our new altar seeks to reflect both the twofold nature of our Eucharistic celebration.  The shape makes it recognisable as a table; a table which the entire community of the baptised are called to gather around to feast at the meal that leads us to the heavenly banquet.  Its stone fabrication alludes to the sacrificial altars of the past, and communicates to us that the altar represents Christ himself, who sacrificed his own life for the redemption of all humankind.

None Equals Thee

OLMC Statue landscape 2Sometimes people of other faith traditions think that we worship Mary.  While they can clearly see that Mary holds a special place in our faith, all our worship is directed toward God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Collect Prayer for our celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel reminds us of this:

All gracious God,
may the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother and Queen of Carmel, protect us,
and bring us to your holy Mountain, Christ our Lord…

(Carmelite Lectionary)

Mary is certainly the most blessed of all women, and a person without equal.  As our mother and sister in faith, she intercedes for us, and leads us to the divine mystery in which we believe.  This echoes through a number of the prayer texts we use on our feast day today.

While we certainly honour Mary at different times throughout the liturgical year, the liturgy is still focused on giving thanks to God for the Paschal Mystery – the life, death and resurrection of Christ in which Mary played a crucial role.  It is why, for example, that prayers to Mary (such as the Hail Mary) don’t form part of the proper texts for Mass.  It is also why Marian devotions, such as the rosary, or private prayers at the Marian Shrine, have their own time and place.

So as we give thanks for Mary’s patronage and protection, let us remember her first and foremost as a woman with deep faith who embraced the will of God.  Let us pray that by her prayers and example, our faith and love will become like hers.

Silence Please

Carmel Bulletin, 13 May 2018

When we look back through the Bible at different people’s encounters with God, we come to see that some crucial encounters occurred in silence.  Moses found the burning bush in a moment of silence and solitude.  Elijah sensed God’s presence in the silence on Mount Horeb after retreating in fear of his life.  Before beginning his mission, Jesus seeks the silence of the wilderness; setting him on the course to our salvation.

The Mass offers us a moment of encounter with God here and now, and silence remains a crucial part of that.  It provides us time for reflection, for silent prayer, and for (as one Carmelite who used to live here in Wenty used to explain it) ‘allowing the word of God to find a place within our hearts’.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which explains how the Mass is to be celebrated, particularly calls for periods of silence before Mass, after the readings and homily, and after communion.

So that we can ensure that we have those silent moments of reflection, prayer and encounter, we’re asking all parishioners and liturgical ministers at Sunday and weekday Masses for your support with the following:

  • homilyProviding a brief period of silence after the first reading before beginning the responsorial psalm
  • Starting the Gospel Acclamation only once the priest rises from the presidential chair to proceed to the ambo
  • Waiting until the priest sits down in the chair again before starting the first collection on Sundays

We hope that everyone will be able to support us with these small things during Mass, which are all intended for your benefit.  Hopefully by stopping for even a relatively brief period of time, we can give ourselves the chance to let God in and make himself known to us.

We Too Might Have a New Life

Carmel Bulletin, 1 April 2018

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:3-4

These words from St Paul, proclaimed each year at the Easter Vigil, remind us of the centrality of baptism to our Christian faith.  Baptism draws us into the Paschal Mystery – that is, the mystery of Christ’s passover from death to new life.

It is little wonder, therefore, that the rituals of the Easter season draw particular attention to our baptism.  We renew the promises of baptism on Easter Sunday.  Each Sunday, we are encouraged to put aside the usual Penitential Act and instead participate in the sprinkling of blessed water.  Baptism is the primary sacrament by which we are freed from sin, again through sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection.

25320897818_a85d3d4b9f_b_dOur new baptismal font also serves to remind ourselves of the centrality of this sacrament as our entry to the Church (hence why every entrance now leads to the font); a Church that celebrates the Paschal Mystery every Sunday and is brought to the fulfilment of, and sustained in its Christian life through the eucharist to which baptism leads.  Blessing ourselves directly from the font as we enter the church helps make this all the more powerful.

While on the topic of the baptismal font, we have received some enquiries about our new font since it was installed.  While the bowl can be removed for emptying and cleaning, it is not possible to accidentally tip it over.  Keeping the font clean is important, and the water is replaced and the font cleaned with disinfectant on a regular basis.  The green patina that has developed on the bronze in places is a natural result of contact between the bronze, water and air.  It also happens on similar metals such as copper (think of old copper pipes, or the Statue of Liberty, which also gets its green colour from the natural patina that has developed on the copper over time).

Walking the Walk

liturgical space 022Our Judeo-Christian tradition includes many long journeys towards a unique encounter with God.  The Israelites’ search for the Promised Land, Elijah fleeing to Mount Horeb, and Joseph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem are some example.  Jesus’ own long journey of his public ministry ultimately leads to his final journey to Golgotha.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, looking towards the Dome of the Rock
Looking into the old city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

Many Christians since have been inspired to seek encounter with God through pilgrimage.  It may be to sacred places abroad like the Holy Land, or walking in the footsteps of saints.  The processions of our liturgy enrich our worship by drawing us physically into the journey of encountering God.  They are, in their own way, pilgrimages into the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and our upcoming Holy Week celebrations are full of them.

Fr John and Severs showing the cross, Good Friday 2009Beginning with the procession at 9:00 am Mass on Palm Sunday, we continue with the processions of oils, gifts for the poor, and the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday.  The cross is the focus of procession on Good Friday, as it is brought into the church, and as we approach it in adoration.  Finally, the Easter Vigil brings with it the procession of the light that dispels the 25320897818_a85d3d4b9f_b_ddarkness, and the procession to the font where we will not only renew our own baptism, but celebrate the baptism of five new Catholics – Thippi, Mathanki, Lucy, Song and Alan – who will then go on to process to the altar for the first time in Holy Communion.

Let us take the opportunity to participate in these processions prayerfully and place ourselves within the saving act of Jesus that is not just a historic event, but something that the liturgy makes real and present for us here and now.