My Recent Homilies
Holy Trinity Sunday 2023
“When the early Greek Fathers of the Church spoke of this “three-ness,” writes Sister Antoinette Gutzler, “they expressed it in terms of a dance and they used a very interesting term: perichoresis. This term isn’t important but what it images is very important – it images the Trinity as a divine dance. Now, this dance is not for “two”, where the two can be closed in upon themselves. It is rather a dance for “three” or more – a dance in a circle that moves to certain rhythms, in unpredictable ways and with lots of different steps. It is a dance into which everyone is invited,” as in the dance scene in the movie, Zorba the Greek.
And she continues, “And is this not what the Trinity is all about? God inviting us – each one of us – all of us – into a dance – into relationship – to be together with God, with one another, with all creation. The dance expands our boundaries, and to dance with God takes us into uncharted waters – to people we may not know and to places where we might not ordinarily go.”
To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised when I read her commentary on the Holy Trinity. As a Maryknoll Sister from Queens, New York, Sister Antoinette has served in mission in Tanzania, East Africa. The main reason for my surprise is that my art show in Dayton is titled, “Dancing with God through the Arts,” from a series of articles I had written around this topic, that God through the Trinity invites us into the dance.
It is well known that art and music are now used in therapy, and one can even get a degree in both areas. And at retreat centers art supplies are usually available. What is also well known is that art stimulates the right side of the brain, in which there is no sense of time and where we are drawn into quiet meditation. The book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” emphasized the unique properties of the right side of the brain and how to apply them to art.
What has this to do with the Holy Trinity?
Simply that the Holy Trinity invites us into the dance through the arts. The Holy Trinity isn’t just a static thought floating up in the heavens somewhere but has pitched their tent within us. How is this possible? Simply because art has all the attributes of God, beginning with beauty, goodness, truth, and love. God entices us to the dance through the arts…and we don’t even have to be artists.
What do I mean by that?
Did you ever notice that when we go to an art museum, people are quiet and respectful of those viewers who are moving around taking in all the different works on display. It seems sort of like a church, where people go to quietly reflect and pray. And the same at classical music concerts, when the music begins, everyone is there to listen and reflect. The same could be said with other forms of art, like public readings of poetry.
We don’t have to be an artist to know and appreciate art. We don’t have to be a composer to appreciate music. We will know if we like it and it resonates with us when we see or hear it. And in some almost mysterious way, we are attracted to the arts, drawn in, invited to the dance between oneself and the artist. And have you ever gone to a cathedral that has captured your attention with all the beauty surrounding you, like here at Saint Francis de Sales church? Add to that good music, especially within the context of the Liturgy.
Let me end with this quote from the Jesuit, Father Spitzer.
“When one hears Mozart’s Requiem, one recognizes and then reposes and revels in more than music brought to its perfection, more than the human emotions evoked by the harmonies and melodies. One enjoys the more perfect manifestation of unity, and then reposes and revels in it, feeling a deep and abiding sense of exaltation and glory. Now when the Requiem is performed within a magnificent church with magnificent art, and the music, art and architecture are unified as a whole, one feels drawn into a perfection bigger than all the forms combined. One is drawn into the perfection of complex unification to which one appends the name “Glorious” or “Magnificent.”
And this perfection of complex unification is a taste of the Holy Trinity.
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“Short History of the Ordinary of the Mass”
The Mass today differs greatly from the very simple ceremony followed by Christ and his Apostles. Though celebrated in the context of the Jewish Passover Meal, the Christian Eucharist proper consisted in: Consecration of the Bread, Consecration of the Wine, Breaking of the Bread, Communion of the Bread, and Communion of the Wine. While something similar to the Jewish Passover table blessing must have been used from the very beginning to enshrine the Consecration, it is probably that the Mass of the Catechumens was not joined to the Eucharistic Service proper until sometime after the year 44 AD. Before Christians were expelled from the Temple and synagogues, they frequented the Sabbath Reading Service and then only retire to one of their own houses for the Eucharistic proper.
Comments: Let that sink in for while. The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Meal) were not joint together until 10 years after Jesus’ Resurrection! Not only that, they were celebrated on different days! The Liturgy of the Meal was celebrated on Friday Evening after sundown, but later moved to Saturday evening after sundown, and the Liturgy of the Word was celebrated on Saturday morning, but was quickly moved to Sunday morning when the Jews expelled Christians out of the Temple and Synagogues.
+1+ Mass in the Home (until about the 4th century)
The celebration of the Mass in a home gave a family-like external appearance to the Eucharist. However, even though at the very beginning the Eucharist was celebrated in conjunction with a meal properly speaking, this practice was dropped very soon and usually for reasons of abuse (St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians).
We have a clear outline of such a Mass celebrated in a private home in and around Rome in the first centuries, given by Justin Martyr: Didactic Part (Liturgy of the Word): Readings from Apostles and/or Prophets, Homily based on these readings, Common Prayer for the needs of the Church, Kiss of Peace; Sacrificial Part (Liturgy of the Meal): Presentation of Bread and Wine mixed with water, Prayers and Thanksgiving over the oblation, Breaking of the Bread, Communion under both species, Collection for the Poor.
With a few exceptions, during these early centuries Mass was celebrated on Sundays only. Also, there is no evidence of repetition of Mass on the same day – one Mass only – the rest of the clergy either concelebrating or assisting at Mass. Already during this period the formula “Body of Christ”, “Amen,” was used during the distribution of Holy Communion (St. Ambrose, 397).
Comments: Again, this was the practice of the Jews, one celebration of the family Sabbath Meal in the home every Friday evening after sundown (Jewish beginning of the Sabbath was after sundown Friday!) . The men went to the synagogue for morning prayers on the Sabbath (which would be Saturday morning). Ironically, it was the deeper belief and understanding of the REAL presence of Christ in the Bread and Wine that the desire for the celebration outside of Sundays’ community celebration, especially in the late monastic movement, that weekday Eucharist eventually became the norm. This monastic movement began already in the early 4th century.
+2+ Mass in the Basilica (4th and 5th century)
When the Emperor Constantine issued his edict in 315 allowing freedom of worship to Christians, their numbers grew and their worship was conducted openly in basilica-type buildings. This, as well as the fact that the emperor moved his headquarters to Constantinople, influenced the ceremonies accompanying the celebration of Mass immensely. Since the most important leader the people in the absence of the emperor was the Pope, the ceremonial accorded also to the Pope was incorporated into the ceremonies of the Mass: processions, accompanied by singing, bows, etc.
During this period the fundamental make-up of the Mass liturgy took on the appearance of the Roman community. The classic hall of this community was the basilica. The ‘chair of the president’ was situated in the apse on an elevated platform with the presbyters on each side on a circular bench.
After the Mass in the Pope’s basilica the younger bishops (or if necessary, in their place, priests) would take to their separate congregations the fermentum (small part of the host broken off during the Pope’s Mass) to show the unity between the Mother church and those at some distance form it.
During this period the prayers for the faithful were dropped and giving of the Kiss of Peace was moved so as to be a preparation for the reception of Holy Communion. Also, following the “After Communion” prayer, a Prayer over the People was recited as an additional blessing, sending them out into the work of their daily lives during the following week.
+4+ Papal Mass (6th and 7th centuries)
The Church continued to spread rapidly throughout the Western world. In order to maintain a symbol of unity with Rome, the ceremonies of the Pontifical Mass of the Roman Pontiff were imitated throughout this portion of Christendom. The Papal ceremonial was thus introduced into such countries as Spain, and even as far away from Rome as England by St. Augustine in 604. The signs of honor accorded to the Pope were also, therefore, accorded to the bishops and priests who resided at the Eucharistic Celebration. Genuflections as a sign of honor, began to be introduced during this time, along with kisses; the chair of the president, if the Pope or a Bishop, became a throne.
Gregory I (+604) introduced the first liturgical reform which consisted in a sober reformation of the Canon.
The dropping of the small particle of the consecrated host into the chalice became an ordinary practice, since it was no longer possible to have its small portion of the host of the Pope’s Mass carried to churches far away from Rome. The symbolism of this ceremony, however, was at least for a time still understood.
Short History of the Ordinary of the Mass