The Comfortable Words

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St Matthew 11:28

These are comfortable words, whom anyone leading a life full of strife or difficulty can take particular enjoyment in. They are the opening words to the funeral liturgy of the Ordinariate, of many Anglican traditions, and are included in common Gospel readings at Requiem Masses throughout the English-speaking world.

Perhaps I am going out on a limb to say that we live in a world disenchanted with its past. A world, a society of people, collectively less aware of God although He makes Himself known. However, anyone with an open mind, if it is truly a mind receptive to establishing the truth of existence, ought to give these words some credence. We never truly grow old. We are always little children, gasping for air and for stability. We can fall on any bridge we wish, and quite often those bridges are made of wood near splintering into a thousand pieces; not close enough to open a gap quite yet, but near the point. We get up on the bridge and cross it many times, going one place at a time yet dependent on where we have fallen. We claim it as ‘life’s lot’, and accept it as our life’s purpose.

But then the bridge opens wide. We fall through. We hit the icy water below. We cannot breathe. We cannot swim. Our feeble hands claw and scrape at that river, yet we cannot find a ledge or a rock to cling to that could keep us steady or grant us a gasp of fresh air. Seldom do we find it. Thus, we hit a crisis. What was wrong? I thought I was on my feet. I thought the bridge that allowed me to travel to all corners of life was steady; a few cracks are normal. We aren’t perfect.

The bridge was a human construction, with human imperfections, made for the world’s use and was therefore unstable. Some of us, when we cooperate with the Grace we are given, fall upon a bridge that has weathered many a storm. It has been beaten and pelted with salty ocean waves, but it has dried and the wood was restored again and again. In fact, this particular structure was so susceptible to the acts of nature that sometimes we didn’t cross it for fear of the life we saw growing upon it. Moss, fungi, other green and brown things we cannot know of. However, when we really needed to come safely home, we could only cross this bridge. Eventually, after the length of time the wood stood, interrupted only time and time again by footstep, it petrified. The whole bridge became a solid rock.

Often our faith is like this isn’t it? Trust and obedience, dependence and doubt. We experience these in fluttering diversions, sometimes hitting us like arrows, mostly the safety net that ought to catch us should we ever fall through. To the non-believer, coming to belief can often be like this. Like walking a new bridge over a deep crevasse. Do you understand the imagery?

We know God would never ever build us an unsafe bridge. In fact, His bridges are perfect – the bridge saints trod. Yet they are filled with obstacles, many our own, many to test us, many to strengthen us. Today’s trials are the cause of tomorrow’s triumph.

The Psalmist St David, in Psalm 139: 6-9 has this to say:

Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit: or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven, thou art there: if I go down to hell, thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning: and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

The Lord Jesus Christ never departs from our presence. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday (or perhaps today is, depending which part of the globe you live in). You are going to be reminded, with the placing of a cross upon your forehead, that ‘thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return’, Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember, O Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Meditate on these words. A cigarette only lasts you a couple minutes, and palm leaves burn in less time than that. Our life, because we alone experience it as we can, is but a burning star in the glimpse of time God allows. On the last day, our Lord will announce the faithful of the elect. The Roman Canon asks God to “Be mindful, also, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids…who are gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.” Therefore, God wills that we all be saved through Him, through the prayers of the Blessed Mother, and of the saints: yet only we can decide whether to cooperate with that grace He alone gives us, through the various ways He does. We can receive His very body, blood, soul and divinity. He give us Himself. His arms are open to the heavily laboured, the afflicted, the poor, the sinner.

Our abandonment of our pride, our excess, to His will; to let go of our hubris, to ask God where we belong.

It is difficult to lower ourselves, yet we have every means to do it. What can you lose? Death. What can you gain? Life. Be mindful of your sins, and use the sacraments to assist you on your life’s journey. For it is so very short, and eternity is…forever. Hell is real. Heaven is your home.

Throughout this Lenten season, my dear readers, we all must do penance and seek contrition for our downfalls. It is the time. You’re given no other day than the present, for the past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. Remember the words of the psalmist when you become weary, and the gospels when you despair. Remember the constant presence of God, who has given us everything, including His Own Son. His Own Mother. His Own Body. His Own Church. We need not fear Clothos, we need not fear the slowing draw of the thread of life. We need only to hope, to fear, to adore, to glorify, to adore the passion of Our Lord. Go to confession.

Go to Him, all of you that labour and weep, all who face darkness, and ask Him to be your eyes: go to Him, let Him embrace you. For you are His. He will give you rest.

 

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At Calvary…

It’s been a while since I’ve made a post. I am requesting that you pray for me, because I’m praying for you; offering sacrifice for you. If you have any specific requests, please offer them up and let me know. I’ll be happy to receive them. I’m on the path to a Masters in Divinity and the priesthood please God, and my life has been busy.

As it is, with the Blessed Mother and the saints we praise, let us further extol them all in this following song…

I’m only human, I’m just a man (or) woman
Help me believe in what I could be
And all that I am
Show me the stairway I have to climb
Lord for my sake, help me to take
One day at a time

One day at a time sweet Jesus
That’s all I’m askin’ of you
Just give me the strength
To do every day what I have to do
Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine
Lord, help me today, show me the way
One day at a time

Oh, Do you remember when you walked among men
Well Jesus you know
If you’re looking below, it’s worse now than then
Oh! there’s pushing and shoving  and crowding in my mind
So for my sake, teach me to take
One day at a time

One day at a time sweet Jesus
That’s all I’m askin’ of you
Just give me the strength
To do every day what I have to do
Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine
Lord, help me today, show me the way
One day at a time

Here’s a link. It’s as good for us as anyone.

Easter at King’s

Beloved readers, keep your eyes and ears out for the new DVD from King’s College this year, “Easter at King’s.” While the service is of the Church of England and taken out of the Book of Common Prayer, it is valuable to us as Catholics and could be of use for your meditations throughout the Easter season after the current Lent. Beautifully recorded in the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, the magnificent boys choir is one of the finest and one I grew up listening to quite often.

And I’ll take a moment now to remind you to add to your prayers one for our Holy Father Pope Francis, that he may be led by the Holy Ghost and the Blessed Mother in completing God’s will for the Church and throughout the world. It’s a muddy spot right now, and any prayer could help remove the influences/attacks of the devil.

Will we be known at the gates of Heaven?

This morning I was playing for an Anglican parish, and I heard what was one of the most thought-provoking homily; something the preacher said struck a chord that any true priest I know hasn’t said.

I don’t participate, it’s not the Mass. However, I do like to listen to the readings and the sermon to see what good is in it, and today I believe I found gold. Their gospel reading was that from the book of St Matthew, in particular Chapter 5 – the Beatitudes.

Now Jesus seeing the multitudes, went up into a mountain, and when he had sat down, his disciples came to him. And opening his mouth he taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you untruly, for my sake; rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is very great in heaven: for so they persecuted the prophets, that were before you.

Of the fourth beutitude, St John Chrysostem says:

What is this poverty of spirit, but humility and contrition? This virtue of humility is placed in the first place, because it is the parent of every other virtue, as pride is the mother of every vice. Pride deprived our first parents of their original innocence, and nothing but humility can restore us to our former purity. We may pray and fast, we may be possessed of mercy, chastity, or any virtues, if humility do not accompany them, they will be like the virtue of the Pharisee, without foundation, without fruit. (Hom. xv.)

The Anglican fellow said nothing of St John, nor of the fourth beatitude, but I thought that was nice for consideration as it does connect to what he says. Our humility and contrition is founded and rooted as the pine tree in our love of Christ: our knowing of him, our obedience to him, our friendship in him. He is God, and He has opened up the gates of Heaven. What our priestly-minded friend posed this morning was this: when the hour of our death has come and we knock on the door of heaven, will God the father ask His Son “who standeth there?” and will he reply “this is my brother, someone who loves me and I have known for a short while” or “this is my brother, whom I have known his entire life, and who loves God with all his heart.”? Will we be shown to the room that He has prepared to us?

When we knock at the door, will the Father say “who standeth there?”, the response only being “I know not who stands there.”?

Now, I know there are some theological inaccuracies here and you’ll have to forgive me because I’m only half awake to begin with as well as dying with the flu-season’s gifts, but isn’t that something that tugs at the strings of your mind? Do we know He that died for us, our redeemer, the Blessed Trinity, the one, undivided, eternal, and adorable Godhead? Do we know the role of our Blessed Mother, who brought forth the son into His humanity?  Do we take the assistance of the saints that surround us?

Here’s your thought. Chew on it. I certainly am, and I don’t know how to answer my own questions. The only thing is this: I’m going to talk to my parish priest about this, and I think everyone should consider that in an examination of conscience before confession. God Love You All.

We plough the fields and scatter…

During this synod, I’d find it appropriate that you and myself should offer up a prayer for the clergy involved, all the bishops, and most of all for the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis.

Blessed be the mind, the heart, the hand,
That drew this icon fair,
Of beauty unsurpassable, yet sweet,
God’s Mother, rapt in prayer.
All pure her face, her hands, her heart unseen,
Chaste, white rapture, as morning glow:
She ponders deep. Her sorrow shows,
She bears the weight of souls on earth below!
Awesone, yet so love-filled and so warm!
Immaculate! her praise shall never cease,
In hearts that love and cherish her; God’s Mother!
Totus tuus! Mary’s littlest ones,
in the valley of Saint Therese.

Now, with that most important deed done, keep in mind it’s never a good time to cease prayer.

The past few days have been unparticularly busy, as things always are busy, and I’m crowded with sheets of music for the two churches I am organist for. One, my own parish, plus the other I fill in for sometimes on Saturday, and then the secondary Anglican church I play at, which pays the best money (I didn’t say that).

Through my small experience as an (amateur, unequipped, uncertified) organist, or, if you’re the much better and dignified collection of higher statute and honour, one of those who refuse to believe the title organist should be applied to anyone not a member of the Royal College of Organists, an organ player, I can truly say that I’ve learnt more than I’ve played.

Accompanying a choir, or an entire parish that is, is often times difficult. My opinion is that a choir should sing as it’s written, any improvisations should be noted on both their papers and on my papers, so that I know how to appropriately play along. There is the Daniel O’Donnell and Aretha Franklin of every parish, or he/she that believes they are. They’ll go off key in an octave you never knew could exist, or they’ll sing along to “We Plough the Fields and Scatter” like it were Lily Allen’s creation.

They’re well meaning, and I like Danny O’Dee so I don’t want anyone to think I’ve taken him in vain.

But you’re the organist for the parish, and these are included. It is my job to make sure I play along to what suits them, or play loud enough with as much flourish as I can so to cover them up.

I would love some advice from more experienced organists and organ players, because right now I have very little influence and no role model to imitate.

Sacred music is for the glory of God in the context of liturgy, of the Most Holy Sacrifice, and the Daily Offices so offered, and all within. I don’t know what I’d do or where I’d be if I didn’t have Corpus Christi Watershed, their accompaniment sheets, or the public-domain hymn settings from the Church Music Association of America. Even though Americans sometimes have different words to their hymns, so long as the tune is the same, I’m happy with it.

I’ve been inspired to start a collection. Soon on top this blog, you’ll see a new tab called “Resources.” It will contain links to websites that have free sheet music, instructions for singers, choirs, instrumentalists, and how to appropriately provide company to the human voice during the Mass. To be fair, I’ll even include a few links to Anglican resources which I find can be helpful for those in the Ordinariate.

I’m not an expert, nor do I claim to be, but I hope it could be a good spot for the last minute “the priest wants to change the hymn” panic.