Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holy Mary, Mother of God - 1 January

On January 1st, the Church celebrates Mary under the title "Mother of God." This title is the English translation of the Greek term Θεοτόκος [Theotokos]. 

copy of Mary with Child, 
Frondenberg Altar, c. 1400
gift from our Sister Parish in Germany
Click image for details
Here is an article by Laura Bertone from the 21 December 2012 edition of Catholic San Francisco explaining this ancient solemnity of Mary:
January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, one of the oldest feasts in the liturgical calendar and is a holy day of obligation for Catholics ...
Catholics are required to attend Mass on Jan. 1 and the liturgy will celebrate Mary’s role as the mother of God. The day is also World Day for Peace in the Catholic Church.
A celebration commemorating Mary as the mother of God has been on the Catholic Church calendar for more than 1,500 years and is the oldest feast for Mary – celebrated long before feasts such as the Immaculate Conception or Assumption became part of the liturgical year. The feast began to be celebrated following the debates concerning Christ’s divinity. Once the church decreed that Christ was fully God and fully human, and these natures were united in Jesus Christ, Mary’s role as the “theotokos” (God-bearer) as well as the human mother of God, was confirmed and celebrated.

Day devoted to Mary and peace  Around the 16th century, the feast of Mary on Jan. 1 was replaced in the Roman Church with the feast of the circumcision of Christ. Like all Jews, eight days after his birth Jesus underwent circumcision, marking him as a member of the people of God and part of the covenant between God and Abraham. On that day he also would have been named. However, in 1974 after the Second Vatican Council and the reformation of the liturgical calendar, Jan. 1 once again became the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and was declared World Day of Peace by Pope Paul VI. 
“The purpose of the celebration is to honor the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation and at the same time to sing the praises of the unique dignity thus coming to “the Holy Mother...through whom we have been given the gift of the Author of life,” said Pope Paul VI (“Marialis Cultus,” Feb. 2, 1974, No. 5). “This same solemnity also offers an excellent opportunity to renew the adoration rightfully to be shown to the newborn Prince of Peace, as we once again hear the good tidings of great joy and pray to God, through the intercession of the Queen of Peace, for the priceless gift of peace.”
The solemnity falls on New Year’s Day because it is the octave of Christmas and the church celebrates the maternity of Mary eight days after celebrating the birth of Jesus.
In this country, as decided by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jan. 1 is a holy day of obligation. When Jan. 1 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday, the solemnity is celebrated on the Sunday. ...
Bertone is interim director of worship for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
From December 21, 2012 issue of Catholic San Francisco.
 ******************************
On icons, it is customary to label those who appear. Mary is almost always labelled as Maria Theotokos. This Russian icon below (modern style Kazanskaya Bogomater) is a typical example. 
Here you see MP on the left side top, and Θς on the right side top. Maria Theotokos - Mary, Mother of God.


No one captures the uniqueness of Mary, the Mother of God, more eloquently than Blessed John Henry Newman when he wrote to an Anglican friend. After a brief pertinent quote from the Council of Ephesus, allow me to quote Bl. Newman at some length:

If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκος), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, “The Word was made flesh”] let him be anathema.
                                                                                     -The Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431

It is then an integral portion of the Faith fixed by Ecumenical Council, a portion of it which you hold as well as I, that the Blessed Virgin is Theotocos, Deipara, or Mother of God; and this word, when thus used, carries with it no admixture of rhetoric, no taint of extravagant affection,—it has nothing else but a well-weighed, grave, dogmatic sense, which corresponds and is adequate to its sound. It intends to express that God is her Son, as truly as any one of us is the son of his own mother.

If this be so, what can be said of any creature whatever, which may not be said of her? what can be said too much, so that it does not compromise the attributes of the Creator? He indeed might have created a being more perfect, more admirable, than she is; He might have endued that being, so created, with a richer grant of grace, of power, of blessedness: but in one respect she surpasses all even possible creations, viz., that she is Mother of her Creator. It is this awful title, which both illustrates and connects together the two prerogatives of Mary, on which I have been lately enlarging, her sanctity and her greatness. It is the issue of her sanctity; it is the origin of her greatness.

What dignity can be too great to attribute to her who is as closely bound up, as intimately one, with the Eternal Word, as a mother is with a son? What outfit of sanctity, what fulness and redundance of grace, what exuberance of merits must have been hers, when once we admit the supposition, which the Fathers justify, that her Maker really did regard those merits, and take them into account, when He condescended "not to abhor the Virgin's womb"?

Is it surprising then that on the one hand she should be immaculate in her Conception? or on the other that she should be honoured with an Assumption, and exalted as a queen with a crown of twelve stars, with the rulers of day and night to do her service? Men sometimes wonder that we call her Mother of life, of mercy, of salvation; what are all these titles compared to that one name, Mother of God?
-Bl. John Henry Newman

Here are some recommended Marian practices for the new year; details can easily be found on-line:

1. Read and meditate on the Biblical passages mentioning Mary. Look for the Bible on the US Catholic Bishops' website (USCCB.org.) then search for "Mary" in Matthew, Mark and Luke and for "woman" in John's Gospel.

2. Get in the habit of praying the Angelus. It is prayed when the church bells ring; the Regina Coeli is used in Easter time.  Pope Paul VI reminded the Church to return to this Incarnational prayer.

3. Sing or recite the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos. The Akathist Hymn is a long, Byzantine collection of praises to Mary.  It is often prayed during Lent by Byzantine Rite Catholics and by our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Faith. The Akathist Hymn might be a good thing to do on Saturdays, since this day is dedicated to Mary in Roman Catholic tradition.

4. Display an icon or statue of Mary in your home and workplace. Say a short prayer when you pass by.

5. Check out a book about Mary from the parish library.

6. Pray the Rosary with particular attention to the Mysteries. Once in a while, offer the Rosary for a big issue like an end to war, an end to abortion, or for peace between Christians and Muslims. (interestingly, Mary is mentioned in the Qur'an more often than in the Bible, and many Muslims honor her too. nb: Christians do not accept all that is written in the Qur'an about her.)  Expand your view of Mary's intercessory role so that it is not always just a personal favor from Mary, but one that recognizes her immense role in Salvation History.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Parish Playground - help needed

Have you been to our playground lately?

A group of parents from the parish and school have been studying what we can do about our current playground. The mulch has turned to mud. Weeds are growing. The fence is broken. Several pieces of equipment have been vandalized.

The recommendation after several meetings is that the playground and the surface need to be replaced. The committee has contacted 5 designers for ideas.Their proposals are due back to the committee by January 2, 2012.

A letter has been send to foundations and nonprofit organizations asking for ideas for funding. The committee needs your help:

Do you know of any sources of funding for playgrounds? The committee is looking at grants from Pepsi, Lowes, Coca Cola and other companies as well as foundations.

Do you know of any companies that might donate their services or equipment to build the playground?

Can you help? We would like the creation of this fitness & play area to be a total parish and community effort.

Would you like to be part of the committee?
Email the committee at playground@saintbenedicts.com

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

March for Life 2012

March for Life Pilgrimage - January 22-23, 2012

 

MARCH FOR LIFE 2012 LETTER

update - Dear Marchers, If you made your reservation at the Washington Plaza Hotel and are traveling on the bus with us please make sure that you submit your bus reservation. Let us (the Diocesan Office) know if you are traveling by bus, plane, or driving.  Buses are filling up, make sure that you have submitted your reservation. Have a nice weekend and God bless, Miriam

St. Benedict's Parishioners - if you made arrangements to attend on your own, please let us know. Some reimbursements are available through our Respect Life Ministry. Save your proof of payment.  rectory@saintbenedicts.com or call 716.834-1041.


The March for Life Pilgrimage
Monday, January 23, 2012
Buses depart on Sunday, January 22, 2012
Guest Speaker:  Christina King   BROCHURE

Now accepting reservations! 

Join the Office of Pro-Life Activities from the Buffalo Diocese and hundreds of Catholics, as well as all people of good will, who will gather together to pray and publicly intercede on behalf of the unborn, their parents, families, our communities, our nation and its leaders. We hope that this prayerful presence may open hearts, minds, souls to the fullness of the Gospel of Life in our lives and laws, healing the wounds of abortion.  Seminarians, religious, and youth all seek sponsorships to attend this event and need your support. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thank you Tom and Maureen!


St. Benedict's Parish is extremely grateful for all the hard work Tom and Maureen Kerr have been doing to get our new website up and running. It was truly an amazing feat to have it ready for the rush of Christmas website searches! Many parishioners may not realize that our new website received well over 150,000 hits in just the first three weeks of December alone. 

Tom engaging our Faith Formation students,
encouraging their participation
in our technological endeavors.
The website looks fantastic - clearly organized, easy to use, and cleanly arranged. The homepage is continually updated with new information.  This is now an ongoing project that demands countless hours of behind-the-scenes work. The new content management system (CMS) allows the parish to rapidly update our website and to extend this ministry to ever-larger groups. Tom is great about increasing participation at every step of the way. You will notice, for example, that our 11th graders in the Faith Formation program have already added their contribution to the homepage and we have been up only a couple of weeks!  There will be much more of this collaborative input coming soon. Video and audio in-house productions, live recordings of Masses and/or homilies, faith testimonies and much more will be appearing in the course of the year.

In addition, Tom wrote the $15,000 grant that the parish recently received from The Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. He shepherded us through the exhaustive grant process. This grant award will be used to "foster spiritual growth with adults, families, children, youth, young adults, and the entire community. We hope to revitalize and mobilize our parish by connecting, welcoming and engaging spiritual seekers... By more effectively utilizing digital technologies we will enhance our parish's outreach and engagement efforts." Maureen handles the substantial grant documentation as we proceed.

We will be seeing much more of Tom and Maureen's work in the weeks and months ahead. Please check the parish website often http://www.saintbenedicts.com/

There is no doubt that their forward thinking and technological abilities will bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God. In fact, they already have!  Tom and Maureen have already made St. Benedict's a leader in integrated technology in the service of evangelization.

Thank you both!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

MUSIC NOTES FOR DECEMBER 18

       This is the rare year in which an entire week falls between the last Sunday of Advent and Christmas. With this gift of time, we can celebrate the seven verses of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  These verses are in fact the antiphons of the Magnificat which are sung by religious communities at evensong on each of the seven nights before Christmas Eve. Each one uses an image from the prophecies of Isaiah or Micah. They pose a mandala for meditation: how is God with us?  David wanted to build a house for God, whose presence is limitless and yet who came to house in Mary’s body. Such is the unfolding mystery expounded by Paul to the Romans, and expanded in the songs “Mary, Did You Know?” and “Breath of Heaven.” The Renaissance hymn “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” refers to another image from Isaiah (35: 1).
       I first heard the hymn “Gabriel’s Message” in a multi-track recording by Sting in the first A Very Special Christmas album (with the gold-stamped figure by Keith Haring). He sang the Basque melody (from southeast Spain) in a classic arrangement by Sir David Willcocks which is often sung during the service of Lessons and Carols during Advent. Today’s responsorial Psalm 89, with its references to David and the Messiah, is also appointed to be sung on Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Masses 2011

Christmas Masses
St. Benedict's Church
Main Street & Eggert Road
Amherst NY

PLEASE JOIN US FOR:
Christmas Eve Vigil Mass (services)*
4:00 p.m. Mass (preceded by a children's pageant at 3:45 p.m.)
8:00 pm Mass
12:00 Midnight Mass

Christmas Day Mass  (services)*
10:00 a.m. Mass
11:30 a.m. Mass


*FYI - the most important form of Catholic worship is called the Mass.  This is a celebration of the Word becoming flesh for us. It is a single act of worship comprised of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Other Christians will sometimes use the word "service" or "services."  For Catholics, however, "service" is a general term for religious activity other than Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, or the sacraments.

Directions and more information available on our website - http://www.saintbenedicts.com/.


O Emmanuel - Vespers Antiphon 23 December

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the long awaited hope of the nations, Savior of all people; O come, our Lord and God, set free the people whom you love.

BIBLICAL SOURCE:
Isaiah 7:14


Thursday, December 22, 2011

O King - Vespers Antiphon 22 December

O King of all nations, the desired One of their hearts, the cornerstone that joins in one the peoples sin had kept apart. O come, and save man whom you formed from earth and dust.

BIBLICAL SOURCES:
Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah 2:4
Isaiah 28:16




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

O Daystar - Vespers Antiphon 21 December

note - this antiphon is sung
on the "darkest" day of the year
in the Northern Hemisphere.
O Daystar, (O Oriens) splendor of eternal light and Sun of Justice, O come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.


BIBLICAL SOURCES:
Isaiah 9:2
Isaiah 60:1-2
Malachi 4:2
Micah 3:20



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Key of David - Vespers Antiphon 20 December

O Key of David and Power of the house of Israel, what you unlock, no man can close, for you alone can bind fast. Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

BIBLICAL SOURCES:
Isaiah 22:22
Isaiah 9:7
Isaiah 42:7



Monday, December 19, 2011

Parish Nativity Scene

Our new Outdoor Nativity Scene is now up!  It is located on Main Street between the church and the school. It looks beautiful!

A special thanks to all our donors for their generosity.  Our gratitude also to those who built the stable so quickly and so well!

Stop by and say a prayer to the Holy Family.  The Nativity Scene will remain up throughout the Christmas Season (January 9th is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the end of the Christmas Season). For more details on the basics of Christmas, see http://bit.ly/tXuXmY





Infant Jesus



The Blessed Virgin Mary




 
St. Joseph

The Magi

A couple of lambs.

O Root of Jesse - Vespers Antiphon 19 December

O Root of Jesse, sign of peace, before whom all nations stand in awe: kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. O come, and set us free; delay no longer in your love.

BIBLICAL SOURCES:
Isaiah 11:1
Isaiah 11:10
Micah 5:2
Isaiah 45:14
Isaiah 52:15



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Consecrated Church - crosses & candles

Ever wonder what the twelve candles on the interior walls of our church are all about?  Well, they are on our mind too because we decorated them today and will light them at Midnight Mass on Christmas.

The twelve candles are really there to shed light on the crosses behind them. 

Those crosses signify that St. Benedict's is a consecrated church. Consecration differs from mere blessing in this, that it imprints an indelible mark on the building by reason of which it may never be transferred to common or profane uses.  St. Benedict's church was consecrated on November 11, 1970 by Bishop James A. McNulty.

The ordinary minister of consecration is the diocesan bishop. ... To consecrate a church licitly it is necessary to consecrate a fixed altar in the same church, which altar ordinarily ought to be the main one (Cong. Sac. Rit., 19 Sept., 1665). ... The essence of the consecration of a church consists in the anointing of the twelve crosses on the inner walls with the form: "Sancificetur et consecretur hoc templum", etc. ... On the walls inside the church twelve crosses must be painted, or (if they are made of stone or metal) attached to the walls. These crosses are not to be of wood or of any fragile material. They must never be removed (Cong. Sac. Rit., 18 February, 1696), and documents failing, they serve to prove that the church has been consecrated. Under each cross a bracket holding a candle is affixed.

O Lord - - Vespers Antiphon 18 December

O Lord and Giver of the Law on Sinai, the Leader of your chosen people Israel, appearing in the burning bush, revealed to Moses face to face, O come, stretch out your mighty arms to set us free.

BIBLICAL SOURCES:
Isaiah 11:45
Isaiah 33:32
Exodus 3:2
Exodus 24:12



Saturday, December 17, 2011

O Wisdom - Vespers Antiphon 17 December

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God's mouth, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come, and teach us all the ways that lead to life.

BIBLICAL SOURCES:
Isaiah 11:2-3
Isaiah 28:29
Sirach 24:3
Wisdom 8:1



Friday, December 16, 2011

The O Antiphons - an introduction

Today we begin our Advent reflections on the "O Antiphons" or "Great Antiphons."  These are the beautiful, biblically-based acclamations that cry out for the coming of the Messiah in late Advent. 

Catholics sing one of the "O Antiphons" at Evening Prayer (Vespers) from the 17th of December through the 23rd. Keeping this tradition in the digital age, we will post the O Antiphon for each of these days to help you pray for the coming of Christ and join us in this ancient Catholic tradition.  The Antiphon in English, its main Biblical sources, and a video of the Latin chant comprise each blog post.

Today we simply provide the historical background on the Antiphons.

The exact origin of the "O Antiphons" is not known. Boethius (480–524/5) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time.

At the Benedictine Saint Benedict Abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community.

By the eighth century, they were in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the "O Antiphons" was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases "Keep your O" and "The Great O Antiphons" were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the "O Antiphons" have been part of Western liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one—Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia—the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, "Tomorrow, I will come". Therefore Jesus, whose coming Christians have prepared for in Advent and whom they have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to them: "Tomorrow, I will come." So the "O Antiphons" not only bring intensity to their Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.
 - Wikipedia, Saunders, William, What are the "O Antiphons"?, CatholicEducation.org, retrieved 30 November 2009.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Catholics "Recovering Faith" - interview


Lorene Hanley Duquin, wife of our parish Business Manager Dick Duquin, is a well-known author on Catholic topics, particularly evangelization. She writes for OSV - Our Sunday Visitor.

Here she is interviewed on FOX News about her recent book "Recovering Faith: Stories of Catholics Who Came Home."  OSV, 2011.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Wafers - Oplatki

This weekend many of our parishioners received their OPLATKI in the back of our church. One wafer is called OPLATEK; more than one wafer, OPLATKI.  [The "L" is pronounced like a "W."]  We invite all parishioners and visitors to partake of this ancient Christmas tradition even if your family is not of Slavic heritage.

Here is a brief explanation of the Oplatki tradition...

For centuries on Christmas Eve, families in Poland, Lithuania, the Czech and [Slovak] Republics have practiced a beautiful tradition. It is the breaking and sharing of the Oplatek - Christmas Wafer.

Oplatek, taken from the Latin word oblatum, meaning Sacred Bread, has been the symbol of Christianity and Jesus Christ our bread of life since the Last Supper.

On [Christmas Eve] a festive 12 course meatless dinner is prepared for the gathered family and friends. An extra setting is placed for a beggar (our Lord) who may come to the door, or a poor family (the Holy Family) looking for a place to stay. The host or hostess leads in a special prayer and distributes an oplatek to the participants. Each person breaks off a piece of the other’s oplatek and continues until they have exchanged good wishes and blessings with everyone.

Traditionally at midnight the head of the household takes the pink oplatek and shares it with the animals on his farm or at his home. This custom brings us back to that Holy Night when even animals were able to speak, and to remind us that we are all God’s creatures.

[source - Church Supply Warehouse, http://www.churchsupplywarehouse.com/ ]


Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas basics

Here is a list of some of the basic words, images, facts, and practices of Advent and Christmas.

*the word "Christmas" is a combination of two words "Christ" and "Mass."

*the word "Nativity" is often used at this time of year.  It means "birth" and refers to the Birth of Jesus.

*the word "incarnation" is used to describe the fundamental Christian belief that the Son of God (the second Person of the Trinity) became a man. John's Gospel begins with a beautiful prologue that tells us that "the Word became flesh."

*Advent is the preparation period before Christmas.  We prepare for the coming of Jesus 1) in time, 2) at the end of time, and 3) into our hearts here and now.

*the four Sundays of Advent are marked by an Advent Wreath.  It is common in the United States to have three purple candles and one pink candle.  The pink candle is lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent. The 3rd Sunday of Advent is sometimes called Gaudete Sunday which means "rejoice" Sunday.

*Jesus (a form of the name Joshua) means "savior."

*Messiah is a Hebrew title meaning "anointed one."  The Greek title for "anointed one" is CHRIST.  It is NOT Jesus' last name.

*a commonly used title for Jesus during Advent is "emmanuel."  This means God-with-us in Hebrew.

*the stories about the birth of Jesus are found in two Gospels - Matthew and Luke. These are sometimes called the "infancy narratives." We encourage you to read the first two chapters of Matthew and the first two chapters of Luke.

*in ancient Nativity icons, like the one above, Mary is often shown with three stars on her clothing (her two shoulders and her head). These stars symbolize her perpetual virginity. She was, by God's grace, a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus.

*the Eucharist figures in the stories of Jesus' birth.  He was born in Bethlehem which means "house of bread;" He was placed in a manger which is the feeding place for cattle.  He is our Bread of Life.

*a 14 point silver star now marks the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born.  It is in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The number 14 is "David's number."  That is why 14 is mentioned so often in the beginning of Matthew's Gospel.

*the swaddling clothes of Jesus at the beginning of His earthly life are meant to prefigure His burial garments at the end of His earthly life.

*the Bible never says how many Magi visited Jesus and Mary. Traditionally, since three gifts are mentioned in Matthew's Gospel, three Magi are shown in art. They were later given the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Catholics will sometimes mark their doorways on the Feast of the Epiphany (when the visit of the Magi is celebrated) with the year and the Magi initials.  Here's an example:  20+C+M+B+15.

*Although the Feast of the Epiphany is now celebrated on a Sunday in the Christmas Season, formerly it was fixed on 6 January.  From Christmas to Epiphany was called the "Twelve Days of Christmas."

*the Gospels do not call the Magi "kings."  The notion of calling them "kings" comes from Psalm 72:10.

*gold symbolizes the kingship of Jesus, frankincense symbolizes the divinity of Jesus, and myrrh symbolizes the death of Jesus.

*to show that the Magi represent all people coming to Christ, artists and creche figurines often show the Magi as men of different races. Another way of showing this "universality" is to show one magus with a long beard (old), one with a short beard (middle aged) and one without a beard (young).

Children's Pageant at St. Benedict's
Christmas Eve, 2014
*since the time of St. Francis of Assisi, we often combine the two Gospel stories (Matthew and Luke) into a creche scene.  Sometimes these creche scenes are live ("Living Nativity Scenes"), with children playing the roles of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, etc.  Note, for example, that only Luke's Gospel mentions shepherds and only Matthew's Gospel mentions the Magi.

*often, many types of animals are included in creche scenes; however, two animals are symbolically important and should never be absent from a creche scene - the ox and the donkey.  They are included because of a prophetic verse in the Book of Isaiah (1:3): The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.

*the Christmas Season ends at the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Friday, December 9, 2011

MUSIC NOTES FOR DECEMBER 11

Every year, the challenge of the third Sunday of Advent is to rejoice. Such is the exhortation of today’s entrance antiphon, which we sing as a traditional round, and of the letter to the Thessalonians. As in last week’s scripture, joy springs from a commitment to justice: lifting up the poor, healing the depressed, liberating hostages, ministering to the imprisoned, assuring all that God has not abandoned them. We might even sum it all up as “making spirits bright,” but for the fact that that phrase has been co-opted for commercial ends. All of this arises from a hearty sense of joy in God, rejoicing that runs deep in the soul. Today’s psalm, the Magnificat, applies as much to the mission of John the Baptist as to Mary, and the same is true of the passage from Isaiah. His picture of one “clothed in a robe of salvation, wrapped in a mantle of justice, adorned . . . , bedecked . . .,” evokes the image of Mary as she appeared at Guadalupe, and we celebrate that feast on Monday. We will sing the blue-sheet “Song to Our lady of Guadalupe” as we did for the holy day last week. Also repeated will be “Canticle of the Turning,” based on the Magnificat, and at 10:00 “Days of Elijah,” with its references to today’s gospel. And again, we go out of church to the Baptist’s cry, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”
       The deep joy described by Paul and Isaiah stand in counterpoint to the frenetic partying and compulsive shopping that sneak up on us in the run-up to Christmas. Real joy requires us to slow down ands take the time to be in touch with what see and hear: the sight of a cardinal or a bluejay in the backyard. Besides prayer and thanksgiving, Paul advises us to have a keen ear for prophecy, to test everything, to discern the good from the bad. We must take care not to stifle the spirit, and that implies giving worship the time it needs, especially with our revised liturgy, not rushing through the prayers or songs, paying attention, listening closely. In contrast to the instant gratification of the commercial Christmas, Advent demands waiting, patience and time. We are given “time-outs” during this busy season, like the holy day last week, and Monday’s feast of Guadalupe. These are heaven-sent opportunities to “smell the roses” — or to “wake up and smell the coffee,” as the case may be!
       We need to appreciate what a precious gift time is. Someone attributed to Thomas Merton the saying: “Life and time are our only real possessions.” Death is no respecter of seasons. My father’s cousin was a Trappist monk at Our Lady of the Genesee Abbey. Br. Henry died on December 1, “a good day to die,” said the abbot in his eulogy. He baked Monk’s Bread, kept the bees that provided the honey, and, true to his roots, if not to Trappist spirituality, collected stuff. As Christmas approaches, some of our families will lose a loved one. The antidote to our loss, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of our joy is the bottomless generosity of our parishioners, who manage to provide the requests from two Giving Trees and bags and bags of groceries for local food pantries.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

MUSIC NOTES FOR DECEMBER 4

        Isaiah evokes a God of comfort against the rugged landscape of mountains, valleys and deserts. He concludes with the comforting image of a shepherd.  John the Baptist, on the other hand, brings not tidings of comfort and joy, but of reform.  Matthew and Luke recount his stern upbraiding of those who came to seek baptism from him. Comfort and conversion are the two sides of the religion coin. In his epistle, Peter preaches a fire-and-brimstone sermon with the world turned upside down, presaging a “new heavens and new earth . . . where the justice of God will reside.” Such is the theme of “Canticle of the Turning,” our offertory hymn, which is patterned after the Magnificat, next week’s psalm response.  Justice is very much the Advent theme this year, personified in John the Baptist and in Mary.
       We enter and leave worship with John’s mantra, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” in James Moore’s setting, with verses from today’s Isaiah passage. The same thought is echoed in “Days of Elijah,” our 10:00 offertory, which cites some of the prophets we will hear about on our way to Christmas. Psalm 85 recalls Pope Paul VI’s dictum: “If you want peace, work for justice.” Our communion song “Like A Shepherd,” is also drawn from Isaiah.

MUSIC NOTES FOR NOVEMBER 20

       The feast of Christ the King is the climax of the church year, but also a bridge to Advent. The image of the shepherd-king will appear in next week’s Psalm 80, which we also sang on October 2, invoked by a people in exile whose vineyard has been destroyed. (Recall that today’s 23rd Psalm was also our response on October 9.)  We all long for leaders who will shepherd us, leading by example and healing what is not whole. The key, as we have heard for the last three weeks, is to be alert for the return of the King, for he lives and moves among us even now. The sheep have recognized the person of Christ in those dispossessed; the goats have not. As we have seen these last weeks, walls must fall to bring about the kingdom. St. Paul lays out the scenario: Christ is raised first, then those who are faithful to him; and then every earthly concept of nationality and government will crumble. Finally, when death is destroyed, God will be all in all.
      The promise of the resurrection is well-conveyed in the hymn “We Will Rise Again,” with verses drawn from Isaiah.  Resurrection is also the theme of “Soon and Very Soon.” Our communion processional again this week will be “When We Eat This Bread”, this time with verses from “Shepherd Me, O God.” The African hymn “Jesu, Jesu,” which we also sing on Holy Thursday, reminds us where we find Christ. “You Are My All In All” expands on the concluding thought of our epistle. The closing hymn at the organ Masses, “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns” is set to the early American hymn tune Morning Song and is a meditation on the King of kings whom we worship both in the fullness of time and in Bethlehem. At 10:00 we go out to a medley of spirituals, “Ride On, King Jesus” and “In That Great Gettin’-Up Morning.”

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feeding the Hungry - THANKSGIVING DAY

Families, members of Generations of Faith & St. Vincent de Paul, gather in the St. Benedict's Parking lot at 7:30 AM to receive donations of breakfast food to take down to Little Portion Friary, a homeless shelter on Main Street.  Dozens of people baked, purchased food, or volunteered to serve a delicious meal to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor.  Special thanks to Denise Levy and her family for coordinating this wonderful activity which embodies the spirit of this day.


Friday, November 18, 2011

MUSIC NOTES FOR NOVEMBER 13

The wedding feast continues. Today’s first reading and psalm are often used at weddings. This time, Wisdom appears in the guise of a housewife who is busy about building up her family. The worthy wife is a mirror-image of all of us, as are the servants of the gospel story, who are to be productive as we wait for the master’s return. We hope to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” This is the text of “My Reward,” which we also sang last week. The theme of loving service is reflected in the 18th-century hymn text “Love consecrates the humblest act,” from which come the verses for this week’s communion processional. We will gather and go out to “City of God,” a musical meditation on light which at this time of year is growing scarcer as the days grow shorter. St. Paul pep-talks the Thessalonians: “We are sons of the morning! We are daughters of day!” Just as the bridegroom arrived at an unexpected hour in last week’s gospel, St. Paul warns the Thessalonians that the reign of God may surprise us like a thief in the night or like labor pains. Our artificial attempts at peace and security fall far short of the master’s requirements. In her book The Eighth Day of Creation, Elizabeth O’Connor meditates in depth on the parable of the talents as an exercise in community building. Those who are willing to take a risk are rewarded with the joy of creativity. But our sympathy is with the servant who, out of fear, takes the reasonable and prudent course and buries his money. How could the master be so unfeeling as to cast him out of the house? And yet, if we have not been invited use our creativity for the building-up of the household, we too will feel as if we are on the outside looking in, frustrated and angry. How much of this frustration fuels the “Occupy America” demonstrations?  What is the resonance for someone who has worked for years developing certain skills and talents, and now is told they are obsolete or useless, in particular veterans returning from combat? How important is it for the church to be a place where, in the words of the hymn “Come, Host of Heaven’s
High Dwelling Place
,” “the loser may find his worth, the stranger find a friend, the hopeless find their faith, and aimless find an end”?
         Our offertory hymn, “America the Beautiful,” doubles as a recognition of the blessings of the harvest and the sacrifices of those who defend our country.

MUSIC NOTES FOR NOVEMBER 6

This weekend’s scripture anticipates the Advent theme of watchful waiting and preparation.  St. Paul reminds us to keep our eye on the prize, for this is the reward for all our work. Those who seek Wisdom will be busy, like Gerard Manley Hopkins’ peace-dove, who “comes with work to do, he does not come to coo, he comes to brood and sit.” The bridesmaids of the gospel story had time to brood and sit, as long as their lamps were full of oil. Certainly, those who suddenly find themselves jobless in this economy will need to take stock. What oil will keep our lamps burning till the king arrives — faith? hope? charity? wisdom? works? prayer? Whatever fuels them, our lamps will have to be lit to recognize the bridegroom if he appears unexpectedly in the dark.
       The traditional November commemoration of saints and souls will be expressed in our communion processional for the next 3 weeks. The refrain, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup,” is one of the memorial acclamations (now to be called “the mystery of faith”) from the revised missal and the one very similar to what we currently use. The verses this week echo St. Paul’s theme in Lucien Deiss’ familiar setting of 2 Timothy from the 60s, “Keep In Mind.” At 10:00, the verses reflect our Christian work: Jean Anthony Greif’s “We Are the Light of the World,” also written in the 60s. The first reading is reflected in “Eye Has Not Seen” (“teach us the wisdom of God”) and “Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring” (“holy wisdom, love most bright”). Certainly wisdom is all things bright and beautiful, brightening up the skies in our darkest night, and this is the text for “Song of Hope,” from the Robbie Seay Band. Another praise song, “My Reward,” is based on the texts from Matthew 25 which we will hear this week and next. We honor the saints as those who have brought wisdom to power, and so we begin the organ Masses with “For All the Saints.”

MUSIC NOTES FOR OCTOBER 30

Our liturgy begins with a solemn pronouncement to priests, which we have adapted to the classic praise song “Awesome God.” The musical question, “What Does the Lord Require” strikes a similar stentorian note. With Election Day only a week away, it would not be amiss to apply Malachi’s warnings as well to public servants, who more and more seem to be caught up with the trappings of office and the arrogance of ideology rather than discerning the real needs of those they are supposed to serve. St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he’s “Been So Busy” working on their behalf that he “ain’t got time to die.” This metaphor for selfless busy-ness and work is from a classic spiritual, quoted by Grayson Brown in his setting. Paul’s description of his gentle example as that of a nursing mother picks up an image from our Psalm 131. We will sing Lucien Deiss’ setting from the early days of English liturgy, “My soul is longing for your peace.”
      Other hymns are meditations on the theme of humility. “I Come With Joy, A Child of God,” to the early-American tune Land of Rest, sings: “As Christ breaks bread and bids us share, each proud division ends. The love that made us, makes us one, and strangers now are friends.” “Jesu, Jesu,” set to a melody from Ghana, and Richard Gilliard’s “The Servant Song” are both hymns we sing on Holy Thursday. “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore,” translated from the poem by Basque Fr. Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936–1991), is a conversation between God and a simple, open heart. We go out to Shaker wisdom in the hymn “Simple Gifts,” which reminds us that if we “come down where we ought to be,” bowing, bending and turning are the movements of a dance rather than gestures of subservience. At 10:00 the choir sings “In the Hands of God,” by the Christian band The Newsboys, and we conclude with “We Will Serve the Lord,” by Rory Cooney, a parish musician in Illinois.(www.rorycooney.com)

MUSIC NOTES FOR OCTOBER 23

     Today’s Exodus reading is a stern reminder to a world grappling with immigration law, the plight of refugees, the challenges of diversity, and paralysis of government when it comes to moving beyond mere law enforcement to legislating justice. The obvious question is, who are the aliens? (or the alienated.) And then: “Remember when you were aliens.” Here is yet another exhortation to see the world and humanity as the One who created them does. Though borders are often delineated by geography, such as rivers or mountains, they are still human inventions, accidents of history, which may not respect the reality of what’s on the ground. Remember Robert Frost’s poem. “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/ What I was walling in or walling out,/ And to whom I was like to give offense./ Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,/ That wants it down.” Presumably walls will have to fall as we learn to love our neighbor as ourselves, and by that means to love God with our all-in-all.
     The Thessalonians’ vibrant faith was to move Christianity beyond its borders to neighboring Mediterranean peoples. The gospel’s offer of life to the full (John 10:10) on this Respect Life Sunday is expressed in the hymn “Abundant Life,” with text by Ruth Duck, a prominent contemporary hymnist.  Her text echoes the Exodus warnings about the plight of aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor. These same concerns are found in “The Cry of the Poor,” which is a setting of Psalm 34. The gospel call to love of God and neighbor is carried out in two hymns from Iona Abbey, “I’ll Love the Lord” (in dialogue form) and “The Love of God Comes Close,” a call to move beyond walls and barriers to reach those who are alienated. At 10:00 the choir will sing “Shelter,” recorded by the praise band Jars of Clay, with its chant, “In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live.” The 11:30 choir will sing Dave Brubeck’s setting of today’s Psalm 18, “All My Hope.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day - Lest We Forget



Say a prayer for all our Veterans today!  Thank them personally for their service.

As our on-line commemoration today, here is John McCrae's famous poem "In Flanders Fields."  John McCrae was a Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel.  He penned this poem  in 1915 after seeing a friend killed in battle. It is often recited on this day and many of us remember memorizing it at school.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
   Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Outreach to the Hungry - a story

During mass today, Father Joe Porpiglia called up the children who were going to make their first Penance this year, along with any other children in attendance.

Upon dismissal of them, he asked them to process down the aisle, carrying the food donations from the congregation to the altar. Along with the Generations of Faith children, there was an extraordinary number of kids who were bringing up the food. It really was a sight to behold.

As the procession continued, I heard a small child behind me, Ashlynn, who was talking in her sweet voice to her mother: "Where are they going? What are they carrying?" Her mother whispered back, "they are carrying bags of food to children and families who do not have enough food to eat."

Her small voice persisted, "do we have enough food?" to which her mom replied, "yes, honey, we have enough food."

I thought this was so telling that even the smallest of the small in our parish was gathering the significance of this wonderful gesture of feeding those who hunger. And, at this small, tender age, she was questioning and wondering why.

We are so grateful to all who donate to those in need in our community and we thank you.

Agnes Smith
VP St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Benedict's http://bit.ly/f7egIy

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MUSIC NOTES FOR OCTOBER 16

      Today’s Scripture challenges us to see sacred and secular as two sides of the same coin, so to speak. God, who makes all things work together, can even use a pagan king as his instrument.  It is interesting to view contemporary issues in the light of this prophecy. Politicians of every stripe, issues such as immigration, abortion, Catholic education, tax policy and law and order are all players in the unfolding of salvation history. God is in charge of the drama, but wants to know whether we will resolve these issues with an eye to justice or ideology. The generosity of our parishioners in contributing to the food drive, baby bottles and St. Vincent DePaul is certainly a sign that God is being rendered his due.
    “If God Is For Us” is Grayson Brown’s setting of Romans 8:31. God’s yardstick is also the theme of “What Does the Lord Require,” with its warning to “do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” A similar stern minor key characterizes “Awesome God,” which uses the Isaiah reading as its text. The communion anthem at 11:30 is “Christ Has No Body Now But Yours,” a text from St. Teresa of Avila which expands beautifully on the picture of a community working together portrayed by St. Paul in his epistle. The communion song, “I’ll Love the Lord” anticipates next week’s gospel.

MUSIC NOTES FOR OCTOBER 9

     Today’s Scripture presents us with heavenly feasts and wedding banquets, St. Paul reflects on times of feast and famine, and the whole is crowned with the heavenly Host of Psalm 23 spreading a table in the sight of our foes. “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” is a poetic rendering of this psalm by the great 18th-century hymnist Isaac Watts.  It is set to a tune with Scottish-Irish roots, probably sung by early settlers in Appalachia. Like other folk-based songs of this origin (“Amazing Grace,” “Land Of Rest” and “Sing A New Church”), it uses a 5-note scale which makes for a haunting melody, and AABA form, which makes it easy to learn.
    The hymn “Come, Host of Heaven’s
High Dwelling Place
” builds on the theme of the psalm. This might be a good time to consider the meaning of “host.” Most often, the word means someone who offers hospitality. In Catholic liturgy, it refers to communion bread. Less often, it means a crowd, as in “heavenly hosts,” and this is the sense of “the Lord of hosts.” This expression will be restored to the “Holy, Holy” in December, but this week we are returning to Grayson Brown’s setting of the “Holy, Holy” which uses the older text. He also composed the memorial acclamation “Dying You Destroyed Our Death.”
     At the heart of our gospel banquet is an invitation. Like the vineyard owners’ sons two weeks ago, and the sharecroppers we heard about last week, it is up to us to respond to the invitation, and we in turn must extend that invitation to others. If we follow through, we are apt to have quite a motley crew at the party, and that is what “Jesus Calls Us” is all about. Scholars tell us that the episode of the improperly-dressed guest was probably a different parable which was appended to the banquet story some time after Matthew’s gospel was compiled, possibly in response to Jewish Christians who could not process Jesus’ radical acceptance of tax collectors, prostitutes and Gentiles. Judgmental church-folk seem to be a perennial issue. The significance of the wedding garment may be open to discussion, but almost all of us have had a nightmare about being embarrassed because we were not dressed for the occasion. These days there is a variety of styles around the table, but “Plenty Good Room” for all. The original spiritual inspired our own Sr. Chris Diensberg to write her own verses for the song, which is our 10:00 entrance hymn. “Been So Busy” evokes Paul’s work among the Christians of Philippi, a theme of “busy-ness” which we will hear about into Advent. This week’s Marian tribute includes hymns to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Knock. This last appearance of Mary took place in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1879.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Catholics in America - survey results

Fifth survey of Catholics in America released

http://ncronline.org/news/fifth-survey-catholics-america-released

The latest version of American Catholics is the fifth in a series of surveys of Catholic attitudes conducted every six years. Taken together, they make up one of the deepest and most consistent portraits ever compiled of the membership of the country's largest religious denomination.

During the last quarter century, Catholic attitudes and practices, as well as the makeup of the church itself, have changed markedly even as Catholics have maintained a steady conviction about certain core beliefs. Stated in simplest terms, Catholics in the past 25 years have become more autonomous when making decisions about important moral issues; less reliant on official teaching in reaching those decisions; and less deferential to the authority of the Vatican and individual bishops.

The full contents of the report and an explanation of how it was done are contained in a special section of the print version of the National Catholic Reporter and is reproduced here [2], a total of 13 essays accompanied by a variety of charts and graphs illustrating the findings.

Some significant points:
Foundational theological convictions and the sacraments remain at the core of belief for most Catholics.For 73 percent of Catholics, belief in the Resurrection is very important while teachings about Mary as the mother of God are very important to 64 percent.Sixty-three percent say that sacraments such as the Eucharist are very important.

Sixty-seven percent rate "helping the poor" as very important, ranking it nearly as essential to their beliefs as the Resurrection.Mass attendance rates remain fairly steady but vary across generations. The attendance rate of the youngest generation of Catholics, known as Millennials, or those coming of age in the 21st century, is lowest of all generations surveyed. But even most Hispanics, whose attendance rate is higher than non-Hispanics, agree that weekly Mass attendance isn't necessary to be considered a good Catholic.

The generation known as the "pre-Vatican II" generation is disappearing. At the same time, the Millenial generation of Catholics is filling the ranks. One of the distinctive characteristics of Millennials is that 45 percent are currently of Hispanic background and that number is expected to grow over the next two decades.

Hispanics and non-Hispanics disagree on a number of issues. One significant difference: 70 percent of Hispanics say helping the poor is important while 56 percent of others say it is. Hispanics also are more traditional in their views of the necessity to agree with church teachings on a range of issues, including remarrying after a divorce and abortion, than non-Hispanics.

According to the survey: "One in five Catholics … says that church leaders such as the pope and bishops are the proper arbiters of right and wrong" in such matters as divorce and remarriage, abortion, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality and contraception, while maintaining that either the individual alone or the individual considering the teaching of church leaders is the proper locus of authority for deciding on such matters.In a sign that religion as well as politics is local, most Catholics give favorable reviews to the leadership of the U.S. bishops as a whole, and particularly of their local bishops.

At the same time, the survey "finds a consensus among American Catholics that the bishops have come up short in their handling of the sex abuse issues," with most Catholics saying the issue has damaged the political credibility of church leaders and impaired the ability of priests "to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of their parishioners.

"The survey was conducted online among a sample of 1,442 self-identified Catholic adults who are part of the Knowledge Networks' KnowledgePanel. (See "About the survey" in accompanying stories for more detail on the methodology of the study. [3]) The interviews were conducted April 25-May 2. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.The survey's sponsors included an anonymous donor whose contribution was matched by donations from The Rotondaro Family Foundation, the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Sutudies, the Rudolf Family Foundation, the Donegal Foundation and the Luger Family Foundation.William V. D'Antonio, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, led this fifth survey, as he has all the others. His colleagues this year were Mary Gautier, senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, and Michele Dillon, professor of sociology and chair of the department at the University of New Hampshire. 

KEVIN A. KEENAN
Director of Communications
Diocese of Buffalo
795 Main St.
Buffalo, NY  14203
(716) 847-8719
(716) 847-8722 {fax}

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Medal of St. Benedict explained

From time to time we get questions about the Medal of St. Benedict. At some point in the future we may make these medals available to parishioners. Meanwhile, they can easily be obtained via the internet. Often the Medal of St. Benedict is combined with a crucifix. The medal is especially known for keeping evil at bay.

Here is what the many Latin words and abbreviations on the medal mean:

BACK
St. Benedict holds a cross in his right hand and his Rule in his left. At his right side is a cup with a serpent (or snake) escaping; at his left side is a crow taking away a piece of poisoned bread.  Both of these recall miraculous events in Benedict's life when attempts on his life were thwarted.

Near the saint are the words CRUX SANCTI PATRIS BENEDICTI.  That means "The Cross of Holy Father Benedict."

Around the medal are the words "EIUS IN OBITU NOSTRO PRAESENTIA.  That means "He defends us in our death with his presence."


FRONT
PAX means peace.

C S P B stand for Crux Sancti Patri Benedicti - "Cross of the Holy Father Benedict"

Down the vertical part of the Cross - C S S M L which stand for Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux - "May the holy Cross be my light."

Across the horizontal part of the Cross - N D S M D which stand for Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux - " the devil will not be my leader."

S M Q L stands for Sunt Mala Quae Libas - "these things presented to me are evil."

I V B stands for Ipse Venea Bibas - "drink the poison yourself!"

V R S stands for Vade Retro Satana - "get behind me Satan."

N S M V stands for Non Suade Mihi Vana - "You can't persuade me to do evil."

source: CC Italy pamplet, 2011.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MUSIC NOTES FOR OCTOBER 2

    This week Isaiah sings us a song about his “friend’s” vineyard, a song which ends in violence. Jesus tells a similar tale of disappointment and destruction. What insights into God’s “work” do these stories bring us? Isaiah tells us, “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel,” but where are our vineyards? In his book The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck describes our gradual development as persons having boundaries.  At each life crisis or growth opportunity, our boundaries collapse and a new, larger circle emerges, until finally, our “wall” crumbles one last time and we embrace all of creation. There is a reminder in the parable that growth involves looking outward with thankfulness for the blessings we’ve been given and a willingness to invest them in the growth of the kingdom rather than taking the cream of the crop for selfish consumption. If the vineyard is our church, are we looking for ways to make the circle larger until Christ embraces everyone? If the vineyard is our nation, in what ways have we produced “wild grapes”?  Have we been faithful stewards of the resources we’ve been blessed with, or have the fruits of our labors been diverted to unjust purposes? Is it time to take stock of the “grapes of wrath” which have crept into the vineyard? If the vineyard is our personal life, have we been alert for messengers of growth, or are security and the status quo our overriding concerns? If our walls have indeed been knocked down and life as we knew it has come to an end, are we on the lookout for that previously-rejected stone which could be the cornerstone of a new, richer life?  Is Jesus really the cornerstone of our lives?
     The cornerstone to which Jesus alludes is from the great Easter Psalm 118, which is our entrance hymn. As a means of spiritual growth, St. Paul urges us to be thankful in prayer for the beauty of life, and the hymns “Abundant Life,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Song of Hope” (“all things bright and beautiful you are”) are all meditations on that idea.  God’s relentless quest for justice is expressed in “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” and “Blessed Be Your Name.” the hymn “Jesus Calls Us” invites us to think about how the church can be a fruitful vineyard.

MUSIC NOTES FOR SEPTEMBER 25

This weekend concludes our series of scriptural reflections on God’s fairness, mercy and justice. Last weekend’s parable of the workers in the vineyard began another theme which will continue in one form or another until Advent. The vineyard is an image which can be interpreted in many ways, often as a background to our “work” as Christians. (Recall the disciples’ question to Jesus in John 6:30: “What is the ‘work’ you do?”) Part of that “work” is detailed in the opening lines of our Philippians reading, urging us to stay focused on the humility necessary for the well-being of the community. The latter part of this passage, a poetic meditation on Jesus’ humility, is often called the “Philippians hymn” and may be one of the earliest hymns sung at Christian worship.
    Paul’s exhortation to unity in community is expressed in the hymns “Where Charity and Love Prevail” and “Simple Gifts,” a tune and text which are part of our 19th-century Shaker heritage. “Simple Gifts” describes the attitude of humility with perfect simplicity. I often suggest this hymn for weddings. “Jesus Calls Us” is also a meditation on the work of Christ, and is one of three hymns from Iona Abbey that we will sing this weekend, the others being “The Love of God Comes Close” and “I’ll Love the Lord.” Iona hymns often use folk tunes and poetry elegant in its simplicity which makes its point without religious rhetoric. Our gospel passage emphasizes the commitment and energy necessary to move from good intentions to action, so three of our songs at 10:00 have “yes” as their theme: “I Say Yes, Lord,” “I’ll Love the Lord,” and “Trading My Sorrows.”