Author Archive for Tom Schenk

Attending Mass

The moral obligation to attend Mass has been Church law since the fourth century.  But rather than think of it as something we “have to do,” rather we should think of Mass as valuable time spent with our loving God and with others.

When we go to Mass, we begin to see that we are not alone and recognize that we are part of the Body of Christ, and if one part of the body is missing, the whole body suffers. (8:38)

Assumption

For hundreds of years, Catholics observed the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15.   This teaching of Mary’s being taken bodily to Heaven after her death was in 1950 proclaimed a dogma of the Church, that is, the Assumption of Mary is one of the essential beliefs of the Catholic faith.

August 15 is the day that Catholics have long celebrated what is called the Dormition (falling asleep) or Assumption of the Virgin Mary.   The Feast of the Assumption celebrates both the happy departure of Mary from this life by her natural death, and her assumption bodily into heaven.

Along with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, the Assumption is a principal feast of the Blessed Virgin and a Holy Day of Obligation.

Though it was almost universally believed for more than a thousand years, the Bible contains no mention of the assumption of Mary into heaven.  The first Church writer to speak of Mary’s being taken up into heaven by God is Saint Gregory of Tours in 594.

On May 1, 1946, Pope Pius XII, asked all bishops whether they thought this belief in the assumption of Mary into heaven should be defined as a proposition of faith, and whether they with their clergy and people desired the definition.  Almost all the bishops of the world replied in the affirmative.

On November 1, 1950, the Feast of All Saints, Pope Pius XII declared as a dogma revealed by God that “Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven.”  (8:37)

Septuagint

The Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament started in the third century B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt.  The name Septuagint comes from the Greek word for “seventy”; hence the symbol LXX in roman numerals.

It refers to the seventy-two Jewish translators brought to Egypt by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 B.C.) to translate the Hebrew Bible for the non-Hebrew-speaking Jews.  The translation was completed around 100 B.C.

It differed from the Hebrew Bible in the arrangement of the books and included several books, later called deuterocanonical, which were not acknowledged as sacred by the Palestinian community.

By the first century, the LXX was the Bibles of Greek-speaking Jews, and so was the most frequently used version of the Old Testament in the early Church; this is evident from the New Testament and patristic sources. (8:36)

Abbot

The historical term abbot is used to denote the head of a religious community of men.

While several large religious institutes, for example, the Benedictines, have preserved the title, others, such as the Dominicans and Jesuits, use other terms (prior and rector, respectively) to describe the same office.

Most abbots are not bishops, but over the centuries canon law and tradition have accorded them several quasi-episcopal powers, especially in the matters of governance and worship within their community.

Dating back to the sixth century, the title “Abbess” is the feminine form of “abbot” and designates the spiritual and temporal superior elected by a community of nuns. (8:35)

Early Church

The first segment of time delineated by ecclesiastical historians in their attempt to analyze the nearly two millennia of the Church’s existence is called the Early Church.  Scholars generally mark this period as beginning on Pentecost Sunday (circa A.D. 30) and concluding with the Edict of Milan in 313.

These three centuries are usually subdivided into two eras: the first is called the “Apostolic Age,” from 30 to 180, and is of course dominated by the towering figures of the twelve Apostles, the disciples of Jesus and their immediate followers.

Sometimes called the “primitive Church,” this Apostolic Era was noted for the extraordinary missionary expansion of the Church, the development of the canon of Scripture, the formation of a rudimentary hierarchical structure, the articulation of the fundamentals of the Faith through creeds to counteract heresy, internal and external struggle, opposition and persecution, and the efforts of the Christian community to arrive at a way of living with the Roman, Greek and Jewish cultures.

The writings, worship and structure of the Church in this Apostolic Age show the effects of these three cultures upon evolving Christian thought and practice.

The second subdivision is usually referred to as the “sub-apostolic Church,” 180–313, which is characterized by numerical growth, geographical expansion, severe persecution, theological activity (especially in the cities of Antioch and Alexandria) and the growing attention to the problems presented by the world, especially the Roman Empire. (8:34)

General Intercessions

In liturgical tradition this is one of the terms to distinguish the intercessory prayers offered during the Eucharist celebration.

These intercessory prayers are also referred as the Prayer of the Faithful or the Universal Prayer.

Typically, these prayers are in the litany form of petitions offered by the deacon (or another in his absence) with a sung or spoken response, such as, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

The petitions are introduced by an invitation to pray by the presider, and is completed with a concluding prayer.

In general, the intentions in order are for the needs of the whole Church, for public authorities and the salvation of the world, for those who are oppressed, and for the local community including the sick and deceased. (8:33)

Postulant

A candidate for a religious order who has been accepted for admission but who undergoes a period of pre-novitiate formation to be prepared for entry into the more solemn formation period of the novitiate itself.

The duration, format and religious garb of the period of postulancy vary widely from one community to another.

In religious communities where perpetual vows are to be taken, it is typical for both men and women to spend at least six months as postulants.  (8:32)

Tetragrammaton

Tetragrammaton is a term of Greek origin, meaning literally, “four letters.”  This technical name is given to the four Hebrew letters “JHVH” or “YHVH” of God’s proper name, Yahweh, disclosed by God to Moses out of the burning bush in Exodus 3.

Vowels were added to the four consonants of the name of God to allow vocalization which is believed to approximate the original pronunciation of the word.

About three centuries before Christ, the Jews, out of reverence for the revealed divine Name, Yahweh, ceased pronouncing it.

The Old Testament Hebrew term Adonai, best translated as “Lord” or “my Lord” is attributed to God out of reverence for the majesty and “unspeakably” great name of Yahweh.  (8:31)

Corpus Christi

The Feast of Corpus Christi, or the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (as it is often called today), goes back to the 13th century, but it celebrates something far older: the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

While Holy Thursday is also a celebration of this mystery, the solemn nature of Holy Week, and the focus on Christ’s Passion on Good Friday, overshadows that aspect of Holy Thursday.

The feast is celebrated Thursday after Trinity Sunday, although, in the United States, the celebration is transferred to the following Sunday.

For centuries after the celebration was extended to the universal Church, the feast was celebrated with a Eucharistic procession, in which the Sacred Host was carried throughout the town, accompanied by hymns and litanies.

The faithful would venerate the Body of Christ as the procession passed by.  In recent years, this practice has almost disappeared, though some parishes still hold a brief procession around the outside of the parish church.  (8:30)

Trinity

The Holy Trinity is the title given to the three Persons in One God.  But how in the world can anyone explain that?

The answer is that we in this world cannot.   It is a mystery beyond our comprehension.  How can there be three separate persons—The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit—but yet still all be the same God?

This is truly a question that we take on faith as Catholics, because our limited human brains simply cannot understand it.  And while we cannot fathom this mystery, as Catholics we know and love this fact of three persons in one God.

This most sublime mystery of the faith is stated as: God is absolutely one in nature and essence, and relatively three in Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who are really distinct from each other, but these Three are consubstantial, that is, identical with the divine substance.

The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, but the doctrine is obvious.  Some of our protestant brothers and sisters (who protests against the Catholic Church) use this strategy against Catholics concerning the word “purgatory,” which also does not appear in the Bible, but yet, just as the Trinity is, the doctrine is defined.  (8:29)