Thanks to Steve Zinski for providing this information.
September 1st is the beginning of the Liturgical Year. It is also the beginning of
a new school year. A beginning means a new and fresh start. We have spent the three
month of summer resting and maybe we were bored. Now we begin school again with
new strength and new spirit. The same is true with beginning a new liturgical year.
We begin, once again, to live in the mysteries of Christ, by first celebrating the
birthday of Mary. In Mary’s birth the hopes of the Israelite people, who long awaited the
Messiah were fulfilled. Mary brought the Messiah–Christ into the world; thereby ending
the expectation of the people in the old Covenant.
It would be wonderful if we, at home, would celebrate the beginning of the new
liturgical year and Mary’s birthday. It would be nice to celebrate these with our families
at the main meal on September 8th by having a birthday cake in Mary’s honor. Maybe
we could also decorate the center of the table with a picture or icon of Mary.
In the month of September we also celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the
Holy Cross. It seems strange that we would celebrate this feast at the beginning of the
liturgical year. The cross is a symbol of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. It is
the end towards which the liturgical year will lead us; yet, we are reminded of the end
right at the beginning. The Church brings the beginning and end before us because it
wants to show us that they are not far apart.
On this feast we are taken back to the beginning when Adam sinned by eating the
fruit of the tree. At the same time we are shown another tree — the cross which brings us
new life. For this reason we draw near to the cross and bow before it for from it comes
the new life of Christ.
In our churches we find the cross surrounded with flowers placed on a table.
Wouldn’t it be good for us to celebrate this feast also in our homes? We could take the
cross which we have at home and place it on our dining room tables or some other small
table and surround it with flowers. We could keep it there and venerate it for the eight
days of this feast. In this way we could enter the liturgical year with new meaning and
with new spirit.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
The liturgical year has wound down. Its final day was yesterday, Saturday, August
31st. Today, September 1st, begins the new liturgical year As with every secular new
year, resolutions are in order. Now that we have another beginning, people of faith ought
to resolve for themselves certain tasks and goals directed toward a greater love of God
We are students and disciples of our Lord, Jesus Christ, as were Christ’s chosen
Apostles. They spent time with Christ and so should we. Christ walked with them more
in spiritual terms than in physical. They only had three years with Him. Their journeys
were limited by the endurance of their feet and the course of the seasons. Yet, their
walk with Him in faith took them on a journey of faith light years ahead of their meager beginnings.
Christ taught them with His frontal attacks on their moral and behavioral shortsightedness. He challenged their values on greatness by setting a little child before them
(Matthew 18:2). He taught them a supremacy of spiritual holiness over physical wellbeing (Matthew 18:5.10). He built up their concern for the lost and the erring over and
above flattering those well-off and secure by human standards. He came to save what
was lost and cure the sick as a holy physician.
The values which Jesus upheld at the price of His own blood were made evident
by the way He lived. Our own human endeavors ought to strengthen and uphold our
faith in God, irrevocably establishing our rapport both with God and man. By cooperating with God’s will we become communicators of God’s love. Our thoughts, words and
deeds become vessels of God’s grace, pouring out a righteous example of Christian
living. Vatican lI’s DogmaticConstitution on the Churchspeaks admirably of Christian
living in terms of holiness. From Chapter 1.2 we read: “By an utterly free and mysterious
decree of His own wisdom and goodness, the eternal Father created the whole world. His
plan was to dignify men with a participation in His own divine life.”
Chapter 5 entitled “The Call of the Whole Church to Holiness” explains: “Thus it is
evident to everyone that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the
fullness of Christian life and to perfection of charity. By this holiness a more human way of
life is promoted even in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength according as they have received it as a gift from Christ. In
this way too the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good,
as is brilliantly proved by the lives of so many saints in Church history.”(no.40).
The Byzantine Church credits the greatest growth in holiness to people who drink
from the font of daily prayer, who receive the sanctifying grace of Penance and Holy
Communion, and who apply the Holy Spirit’s guidance to the duties of their lives by the
reading and study of Sacred Scripture. This is how we apply the maxim of seeking first
the kingdom of God. By such means we cannot fail to offer God, the Author of our lives,
true and loving worship.
By subjecting our lives to the pursuit of God’s will, right from the beginning of this
liturgical year, our walk through life becomes a walk with God in faith, hope and love.
Today we prayed the following Kontakion:
Christ our King, You dwell on high. Maker and Creator of all that is seen and
unseen, You made the days and nights, the seasons of the year and time
itself. Bless the new year. Preserve in peace and protect our nation, this faith
community and all Your people, O most merciful Lord.
I think we all recognize that the love we have for a person can find its best expression
in time of crisis. A husband may tend to grow thoughtless of his wife and fail to show signs
of tenderness and affection, but just let her go into the hospital for a serious operation and
he will show how deep his love really is by his worry and concern. Or a mother becomes
annoyed with her child who seems always to be complaining, “There’s nothing to do around
here.” After the child is sent out to play he is struck by a car, and in that terrible moment
all the love of the mother goes out to her child. It seems a shame that sometimes we wait
until a time of crisis to show how great our love is.
Several years ago a five-year-old girl came down with an extremely rare disease. The
doctors understood little about her condition, but they did know that a blood transfusion
was imperative, and they wanted her to receive blood exactly like her own, a very rare type.
Neither parent had the right type, so the doctors tested the little girl’s eight-year-old brother.
His type was perfect, but it occurred to the doctor in charge that it would be frightening for
a boy of that age to be asked to give blood. The doctor sat the boy down and explained
that his sister needed his blood in order to live. The boy’s eyes grew bigger and bigger during the explanation, but when the doctor had finished the boy consented and his parents
signed the necessary papers. They wheeled the boy into his sister’s room and effected the
transfusion. When it was all over the little boy looked up at the doctor and asked, “Doctor,
when do I die?”
That little boy thought that to give blood to his sister meant that he had to die. How
heroic he was! But I am sure that he bickered with his sister and teased her as older brothers do. There were times when he did not want her around as he played with his buddies.
But despite all that, he did build within his heart a great love for his sister. In one sense it
seems a shame that he waited until a time of crisis to show it.
And it is a shame too if we wait until a time of crisis to show our love for God. In our
daily lives we can tend to drift away from God, to forget about Him, to fail to show the
love and tenderness that we should. Sometimes, when God’s law gets in the way of what
we want to do, we may even wish that He were not around. Today Jesus tells us that we
must love God with our whole heart—that means that we must love God all the time, in
little things as well as big things. We should not wait until we come face to face with some
problem. Nor can we afford to wait, because we do not know how much love we have built
up within ourselves to meet the crisis. Love grows in only one way—by loving.
The Divine Liturgy is the best means we have both for expressing our love of God and
for growing in that love. The Divine Liturgy makes us think about God. We hear His words
in the scriptures and the homily. If a person is not on your mind, you are not really going
to be concerned about him. The Divine Liturgy is also our way of telling God we love Him
through the prayers and hymns. A husband and wife can actually increase their love by
saying that they love each other. A good husband doesn’t need some special occasion to
bring home a little gift to his wife. In the Divine Liturgy we give God the best gift possible,
the body and blood of Jesus Christ in sacrifice. We pray that Jesus may make of us an
everlasting gift to His Father. That means that our love for God should be so great that we are willing to die for Him, as the little boy was willing to die for his sister.
Love also grows from being with the person we love. In holy communion we come
into intimate contact with God our Father through the precious body and blood of Jesus
Christ, His Son.
Of course the Divine Liturgy will not automatically help us grow in our love for God,
just as human relationships do not grow automatically. People in a family can talk to each
other without really communicating. They can physically dwell together under the same
roof like boarders without any real personal relationship. They can even eat at the same
table without feeling any more sense of intimacy than do people at the same lunch counter
in a coffee shop. Growth in love demands effort, especially the effort on your part. You
must get involved. God is talking to you and you must listen. When you talk to God, you
must mean what you say. The prayers in the missal and the hymns are cold, dead print
on a page. It is up to you to give those words life and meaning. When Jesus renews His
sacrifice through the action of the priest, you are not just a spectator. You must actively
join with the priest in offering yourself as a victim with Christ. At communion time you
must be thinking about the fact that Jesus wants to draw you to Himself so that you may
share in His own family-like relationship as a child of God the Father.
The Divine Liturgy should never be just routine. It is too vital to our relationship with
God. The real test of our love for God will come on a day of crisis. Meanwhile, let us use
the Divine Liturgy as our means for growing in our love for God, a love so strong that we
will be willing to die for Him.
While our Church has always incorporated singing into the liturgy, there are still some
of us who miss the golden opportunity of using this form of praise. We forget that a hymn is
a prayer. A quick glance around many congregations on any given Sunday Divine Liturgy
will find that there are a number of parishioners who do not use this tribute to God.
While there may be a number of reasons for this attitude, there cannot be very many
good excuses for the failure to participate. In most instances the missals and hymnals are
It is true that none of us will sing like Caruso, nor do we have the talent to solo in
front of an audience. But if God had expected us to praise Him with a voice that rivals the
angels He would have provided the vocal chords.
So the weak alibi that we do not participate because we do not have a pleasant voice
is not very valid. There are more of us with the inability to carry a tune than there are those
who stop the show with a beautiful aria.
Stephen Crane, the American poet and novelist of the 19th century, penned these
words: There was a man with a tongue of wood/Who essayed to sing/And in truth it was
lamentable./But there was one who heard/The clip-clapper of this tongue of wood/And I
knew what that man wished to sing/And with that the singer was content.
From these lines, we wooden-tongued warblers can gather courage to sing our hymns.
We can also be assured of one certain fact, that we have a listener. Not the people on either
side of us, but the God Who gave us that off-key voice.