A Word from Father
Słowo od Pastora
FEBRUARY 21, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
If you were very astute during Mass on Ash Wednesday, you might have noticed a change in the Mass. Perhaps you thought it was a mistake on the priest’s part—but it was not. On February 17, 2021, a change in the English translation of the official Latin text of the Mass became effective. What was this change? In the concluding doxology of the collect (or opening prayer), the new English translation is now: “[...] in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever” whereas the old translation was: “[...] in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” Yes, it was a change of just one word: one.
You might think that removing the word “one” is not important. Why does the Church worry about just one word in her prayer? At the outset, our English translation of the Mass is a translation of the official Latin text. The current instructions on translating the Latin ask that the original text, insofar as possible, be translated integrally and in the most exact manner. In the Latin doxology of the collect, the word “one” is not present. When our current Roman Missal was being translated, this discrepancy was pointed out but the Congregation in Rome told the translators to keep the word “one” in the text. In 2020, the bishops of England and Wales, Ireland, and Canada all decreed this change and now the bishops of the United States have implemented it. It is also interesting to note that only the English translation of the Latin contained the “one”—the French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese translations did not contain it.
Perhaps the most important reason for the change of the text is the theological meaning. The new translation of the doxology now reads: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.” What is “God” referring to in the doxology? The word “God” here refers to “Jesus Christ.” While the prayer is addressed to God the Father, the words that follow “our Lord Jesus Christ” all describe who Jesus is. By having the word “one” before God, it could be problematic. Jesus is not “one God (among many)” nor is the Son himself “one God” but he is rather God, the second person of the Trinity. The word “God” in the doxology is Christological rather than Trinitarian. In fact, history suggests that “God” was added to the doxology in the fourth century to combat the Arian heresy which stated that the Son is not of the same substance as the Father. Jesus Christ, who is God, did not become God (as the Arian heresy stated).
In the end, you might not think that this textual change is of much value. There is an adage in the Church, however, that states lex orandi, lex credendi—the law of prayer is the law of belief. How we pray, especially in the liturgy, in important. Our belief and our prayer go together. What we pray needs to express what the Church believes And we believe, in the words of the Athanasian Creed, that: we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
Fr. Alan Guanella
FEBRUARY 14, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
On Wednesday, February 17th, the Church will celebrate Ash Wednesday and we will begin the Lenten Season. During Lent, our lives as Christians will be punctuated by the three great pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Season of Lent is a penitential season: a season in which we show sorrow and repentance for our sins. We prepare through self-denial and devotion for the coming Easter celebration in when we celebrate the fact that Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.
In the United States, we are accustomed to receiving ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. This method of receiving ashes is a custom of North America. The official instructions for Mass (called rubrics) simply state that “the priest places ashes on the head of all those present who come to him.” Throughout much of Europe, the distribution of ashes takes place with the priest sprinkling a little bit of ash on the crown of each person’s head. If you watch the pope’s Mass on Ash Wednesday, you will see the pope distribute (and receive) ashes in this way. Receiving ashes on the forehead in the shape of the cross is not the usual way to receive ashes in much of Europe.
This year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Vatican has released special instructions about the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday for this year. The notable change is that the exhortation normally said to each person (either “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”) will be said only once to everyone in attendance. Then, after cleansing his hands and putting on a face mask, the priest will distribute ashes to each person in silence, using the “European method”—that is, the priest will take the ashes and sprinkle them on the head of each person, not the forehead. Each person should come forward and bow the head to receive a small amount of ash on the crown of the head.
Some people have asked me why the Vatican has mandated this change. The primary reason is that this method of distribution does not entail touching each person and possibly spreading disease. Since it is not practical for the priest to his wash hands or use hand sanitizer between each person, this method solves that issue. Placing ashes on one’s head is also biblical: Daniel begged God for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes; when tempted, Job sat in the ashes rather than sin; in the Book of Esther, we read that Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes in mourning; finally, our Lord cries woe to the unrepentant cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida who should have repented by sitting in sackcloth and ashes. In fact, we will all be following our Lord’s command closer this year: “When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.”
The late 10th century English abbot and writer, Ælfric of Eynsham, tells us: “in both the Old Testament and the New, men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little [thing] at the beginning of our Lent—that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.” Regardless of how we receive ashes, the purpose of the ashes is to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during Lent. That is what we should be concerned about this year, not where those ashes are placed on our heads. A blessed Lent to you all!
FEBRUARY 7, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
On January 25th, Pope Francis added three saints to the General Roman Calendar, that is, the universal liturgical calendar for Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Each of these saints are “Doctors of the Church.” This title, conferred on certain saints by the Church, comes from the Latin word doctor meaning teacher. Each Doctor of the Church has made a made a significant contribution to theology or doctrine through his or her research, study, or writing and all of this together serves to advance the cause of Christ and his Church. There are currently thirty-six Doctors of the Church, of which there are thirty-two men and four women. I was privileged to be in Rome during Pope Benedict’s proclamation of St. John of Ávila and St. Hildegard of Bingen as doctors.
The first saint Pope Francis added to the calendar is St. Gregory of Narek (died c. 1003–1011). St. Gregory was an Armenian poet, monk, and theologian. John Paul II described him as “one of Our Lady’s principal poets.” His greatest work is The Book of Lamentations. It is about the conflict between Gregory’s desire to be perfect, as taught by Jesus, and his own realization that it is impossible and between the divine grace and his own sense of one’s own unworthiness to receive that grace. However, the love and mercy of God compensates for the unworthiness of man. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 12th, 2015.
The second saint added to the calendar is St. John of Ávila (died 1569). St. John was a Spanish priest, preacher, author, and mystic. He is known as the “Apostle of Andalusia” as he long ministered in southern Spain, preaching and establishing schools and colleges. During his nine years of missionary work in Andalusia, crowds packed the churches for his sermons. Pope Benedict XVI named him a Doctor of the Church on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7th, 2012 because he was a profound expert on the sacred Scriptures and because he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. Eighty-two of his sermons still exist.
The third saint added to the calendar is St. Hildegard of Bingen (died 1179). St. Hildegard was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, and philosopher. She is one of the best-known composes of sacred chant. She wrote texts on theology, botany, and medicine as well as liturgical songs, hymns, and poems. There are more surviving chants by St. Hildegard than by any other composer from the entire Middle Ages. Pope Benedict XVI named her a Doctor of the Church on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7th, 2012 in recognition of her holiness of life and the originality of her teaching.
Finally, on January 26th, Pope Francis changed the feast day of St. Martha (July 26) to include her siblings as well, Sts. Mary and Lazarus, considering the important evangelical witness they offered in welcoming the Lord Jesus into their home, in listening to him attentively, and in believing that he is the resurrection and the life. Therefore, July 26th is now the feast day of Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
JANUARY 24, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
I was sent a poem a while back that struck me. The poem is called Desiderata written by American writer Max Ehrmann (1872–1945). The Latin title means “Things Desired” in English. While he wrote the poem in the early 1920s, he distributed the poem in the form of a Christmas card in 1933. Over 1,000 unattributed copies were given to soldiers during World War II. The rector of Old Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore handed out about 200 unattributed copies to his congregation in 1959 or 1960 and included it in a compilation of devotional materials for his congregation. I pass it along to you for your edification and enjoyment:
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
We certainly live in difficult and uncertain times. I think the beginning and the end of the Desiderata are important reminders for us: Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence … in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. With these musings, I am reminded of the homily of Pope St. John Paul II on the occasion of the inauguration of his pontificate (October 22, 1978): Open wide the doors for Christ … Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man.” He alone knows it. So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.