Thirty years ago computers were little more than ultra expensive monstrosities that covered entire rooms wall to wall and promised a lot but were so limited in performance that many called it a myth. Thirty years ago if anyone had told you that within three decades so much would change within the liturgy that it would be hardly recognizable you might have said that would be a myth. But strangely, both myths have become realities. Today computers are palm sized and the speed is frightening. Nothing, however, is so frightening as to see what has happened with our Church over this time. More and more emphasis has been placed on the the horizontal aspect of "peace and justice" while practically forgetting the vertical platform which must come first: God. With Microsoft a horizontal web of cyberspace is essential; with Medjugorje the vertical dimension of emphasizing the trunk of the cross is so important for we cannot reach out to our fellow man if we do not first reach out to God. It is akin to us holding our hands up in the direction of God - our Creator and All! By placing this as priority it allows us to stretch our arms out - opening them to our fellow man. Conversely, if we begin by reaching out to our fellow man as so many bleeding heart liberals and modernists are advocating, then when we reach out to God, we are, in actuality, closing our arms - closing our hearts! That is why Our Lady and her beloved Pope-son put so much emphasis on the vertical dimension to keep everything in balance. The Holy Father reminded us of this last weekend in Austria when he said that dialogue and practicing our faith cannot be solely in the horizontal dimension but that we need to be ever mindful and practice the "vertical dimension, which leads to the Savior of the world." Pope John Paul II tells us all the social programs in the world - promoted on a horizontal platform - won't amount to a "hill of beans" if we do not look to the vertical avenue for the solutions. It does no good to lament the lack of vocations or apathy so prevalent today, but rather to turn to prayer. We cannot pray horizontally to our fellow man, but only vertically to Heaven. That vertical dimension is contained in one word: Prayer! That is the only answer and that is the same message being echoed from Medjugorje these past seventeen years. Our Lady, in nearly everyone of her messages emphasizes over and over and over again: "Pray! Pray! Pray!" We all know she wouldn't repeat herself if it were not so important. We also know God would not repeat His special envoy's visits - sending His very Own Mother on a daily basis for seventeen years if it were not so vital to the spiritual welfare of all His children. While Microsoft is making our life easier in bits and bytes, Medjugorje takes a bite out of temporal things by making us aware of how fleeting this modern lifestyle is. It can be gone in the blink of an eye. Even Bill Gates has to realize you can't take it with you. Ah, there's the real, definitive difference between Microsoft and Medjugorje!
As we saw in the last chapter, the New Sacrifice was phasing out many of the Jewish traditions that had been a landmark of the Hebrew liturgy for thousands of years. Though the new Christian faith was a split from the Jewish faith, some of the Jewish traditions remained within the Mass such as the Amens, Allelulias, and Sanctus, which proclaims Isaiah's chant with the angels present in all of their magnificence (cf. Isaiah 6:3), "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of His glory." It was a perfect vehicle for passage from the Offertory to the Consecration of the Eucharist.
Though the etimology of the word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eu meaning "well or good" and charizesthal which means "to show favor or thanks," it really evolves from the Jewish custom for it was Christ Who instituted the New Sacrifice on the eve of His death with His Passover prayer of thanksgiving. Thus it was a "thanksgiving for good." It seems truly an understatement when you consider the magninimity of this. However, as mentioned earlier, Jesus used the framework of the old to introduce the new. The Apostles realized this and preserved as many of the traditions as possible while still proclaiming and celebrating the New Covenant. Thanksgiving prayers have always been a an integral part of the Mass for within the structure of the New Sacrifice is the meal and, following Christ's example, we give thanks for what we are about to consume. This custom continues today with "Grace" before and after our regular meals so it's only proper that it continue to be an important part of the ultimate meal - the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Just as in the Judaic rite, the sacrificial part of the ritual was an essential element of the Mass. The only difference was that in the New Covenant the sacrifice was an unbloody one on the altar of love - the re-enactment of the Sacrifice of the Lamb on Calvary whereas in the Old Testament it was the Zebah Todah in which a lamb was sacrificed on the altar of fire and that which was not consumed by flames was distributed to those who offered it. This became both a sacrifice and a meal, which the Mass truly is for after the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into His Body and Blood there is a "communion" - a sharing of this miracle and graces with all who are worthy or in the state of Grace. Thus the phrase "Holy Communion" came to be.
Though there have been accounts of "breaking of bread," most do not verify if it were truly leavened bread or large pieces of unleavened bread. Also, just as Jewish law dictated that the bread used would be unleavened so also the Church today continues to direct us to use unleavened hosts as bread in the liturgy of the Mass. This has been the mainstay of contemplative orders for centuries - making unleavened hosts.
Another preservation taken from Jewish custom are the Psalms which are read at every Mass. While we remember the Old Testament we so so in relationship to what Jesus taught and instituted.
This was the heart of what the Apostles taught and as they grew in wisdom and piety, so also the persecution intensified for their zeal could not be hidden. This is chronicled in Acts 3 and 4 when Saint Peter and Saint John were interrogated about their healing and preaching and ordered to be silent. But, in a move which clearly illustrated their break with Jewish law and their embracement of the New Covenant, the Apostles said "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, decide for yourselves. For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4: 19-20) and "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, Whom you put to death, hanging Him on a tree. Him God exalted with His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, Whom God has given to all who obey Him" (Acts 5: 29-32).
This prompted the beginning of the open persecutions that still continue nearly 2000 years later. In the next issue we shall discuss the first persecutor of the Christians who was, of course, Saul, a Pharisee who made it his personal crusade to flush out and convict these radical people who persisted in a religious zeal that threatened the Jewish order of things. As we know, God in His Wisdom, allowed evil for good...a good that would bring the Church a saint for all ages - Saint Paul.
In Monday's Installment, on the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, we will present chapter five - The embryo years: forming the foundations of faith.
Cardinal Neves, who is now the primate of Brazil as well as the president of the country's episcopal conference, served in the Roman Curia under Pope Paul VI. He was, in fact, the secretary of the Congregation for Bishops.
Cardinal Gantin, who now steps down as both prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Vatican Commission for Latin America, reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 over a year ago; the Holy Father had delayed his acceptance of his resignation. He is the dean of the College of Cardinals.
Cardinal Neves may share some common ancestry with the man he is replacing. The Brazilian cardinal is a descendant of African slaves brought to the New World from the land now known as Benin-- Cardinal Gantin's homeland.
Cardinal Neves was born into a large family in Sao Jao del Rei, Brazil, in 1925. He entered the Dominican order in 1948, and was ordained a priest in 1950. He became auxiliary bishop of Sao Paolo in 1967, and his work within the bishops' conference caught the notice of the papal nuncio, who recommended him to Pope Paul VI. Brought to Rome in 1974, he served first on the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and later with the Congregation for Bishops. He was named archbishop of Sao Salvador de Bahia, and primate of Brazil, by Pope John Paul II in 1987, and elevated to the College of Cardinals that same year.
The Brazilian cardinal is known as warm and approachable, with modest tastes and a highly informal style. (He does not employ a secretary, preferring to write letters by himself.) His prominence at the head of the bishops' conference in the world's most populous country, his reputation as a skilled consensus-builder, and his combination of Vatican experience with pastoral work among the poor, all have led many observers to consider him a potential candidate for the papacy. His important new post-- as the head of the Vatican body which supervises the nomination of new bishops-- will do nothing to stop such speculation.
The House voted 223-202 to add an amendment to the $55.9 billion budget bill for agriculture and nutrition programs in fiscal 1998 that would prohibit the Food and Drug Administration from even considering drugs, such as the French abortion pill RU-486. "The federal government has no right to use taxpayer dollars to develop abortion drugs," said Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, the amendment's sponsor. The overall agriculture bill was passed by a vote of 373-48.
Coburn said the Senate version of the legislation does not contain the provision. "We're going to see what we can do (in the Senate). It'll be a hard uphill battle," he said. Pro-abortion proponents labeled the amendment dangerous. "I'm sick and tired of debating abortion on this floor in the House of Representatives, restriction after restriction, ban after ban, amendment after amendment," said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York. "We need to make abortions less necessary, not more dangerous."
In a related story, a subcommittee of the US House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill for the Commerce and Justice departments that links paying of the US dues in arrears to the United Nations, to a ban on funding of international abortion groups.
The subcommittee approved the entire $475 million requested by the Clinton administration, but said the funds must first be authorized in a related State Department funding bill. But that legislation includes a ban on funding of international population control groups that promote or practice abortion, even if they also receive funding from other sources. President Clinton has said he will veto any bill that includes the provision.
The massive funding bills also include money for the 2000 census, more police officers, more border police, and cuts to the Legal Services Corp.
The event, sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, will be held at the Marian Shrine from July 7-12 and will consider the priest's mission at the start of the Third Millennium. The list of keynote speakers include Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Archbishop Cipriano Calderon, Vice-President of the Pontifical Council for Latin America, Cardinal John O'Connor from New York, and several other cardinals and Archbishops from Europe and Asia.
The speakers will each address one of the meditations on the cross during a massive Via Crucis (Way of the Cross). Cardinal Augusto Vargas Alzamora of Lima, Peru and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver are among the confirmed participants at the Via Crucis. The archdiocese added that each meeting day will have a special theme, such us "Be converted in order to convert," "In communion to foster communion" and "With the blessed Mother, for the mission."
The other three days are named "Pastoral day," "Cultural day," and "Closing day," the last one including the celebration of the Mass with Sacred Ordinations to the priesthood for the Church in Mexico.
In a video message, played at the screening of a new documentary on the effects of that embargo, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto called upon Christian to show their solidarity with the people of Iraq.
The documentary film, "Iraq Solidarity Action," was produced by Father Jean-Marie Benjamin, a French-born priest serving the diocese of Rome. It was screened today in the presence of the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See, Wissam Chawket al-Zahawie.
In his video message to the film audience, Archbishop Lazzarotto urged all Christians to "multiple their gestures of solidarity," in order to break through "the isolation created by the embargo." Those who travel to Iraq, he said, would find their a rich culture which deserves understanding and preservation.
The practical effects of the embargo, the papal nuncio continued, have not been changes in government policy, but rather the death of the society's most vulnerable people. As a result, he reported, people are losing their confidence in the future. The best hope for the Iraqi people, he said, would lie in a return to the normal life they enjoyed before the Persian Gulf War.