Author Archive for Tom Schenk

Cycle A

During the current Church calendar, the Gospel of Matthew will be used in our Sunday liturgy.

Next year and the year following, the Church uses the Gospels of Mark and Luke for Cycles B and C, respectively.

This order of use, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are how the Gospel are so arranged as the first books of the New Testament.

According to the bishop Papias (c. 125 AD), the Church’s canonical text of Matthew draws upon the Aramaic traditions associated with his name. Composed c. 85 AD, the gospel is generally arranged in an alternating pattern of narrative and discourse.

Intended for largely Jewish-Christian audience, it seeks to portray Christianity as consistent with the Jewish tradition and a continuation of it. (9:12)

Becoming One Body

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.  We come together as a community to worship, and as Catholics we are given the richness of God’s saving graces through participation in the sacrifice of the Mass.

The Mass is not a reenactment of an event, but a participation in the once-for-all sacrifice that occurs 2,000 years ago.

Receiving the Eucharist is also not meant to be a “Jesus and me” moment only, but a celebration of becoming one body in Christ with the rest of the community.

We receive Holy Communion to become a holy community.   That is one reason why the community shares in a common physical disposition after Communion to show unity in community.

After reception of the Blessed Sacrament, participants show this unity by joining the rest of the community that collectively agrees to stand, or kneel or sit while others partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. (9:11)

Presentation of the Lord

At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there.

Among the record of celebrations she describes, one identifies the gala procession in honor of Christ’s Presentation in the Temple 40 days after the Nativity. This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification.

According to Jewish law, the firstborn male child belonged to God, and the parents had to “buy him back” on the 40th day after his birth, by offering a sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” in the temple (thus the “presentation” of the child).

On that same day, the mother would be ritually purified (thus the “purification” of Mary).  Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually “unclean” for 40 days after childbirth, at which time she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice—her “purification.”  Contact with anyone who had brushed against the mystery of birth or death excluded a person from Jewish worship.

At the beginning of the eighth century, the blessing and distribution of candles, which continues to this day on the Feast of the Presentation, became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name of Candlemas.

Many Catholics might remember Saint Blaise’s feast day because of the Blessing of the Throats that takes place on February 3.  Two blessed candles crossed one over the other are held slightly open and pressed against the throat as a blessing is said, which is: “Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

While very few facts are known about Saint Blaise, he was a bishop in Armenia who was martyred in the early fourth century.  Saint Blaise is associated with the healing of throats.  (9:10)


IHS is a monogram for the name of Jesus, using the first three letters of the word written in Greek.  From the third century the names of our Savior are sometimes shortened, particularly in Christian inscriptions.  Greek monograms for the sacred name continued to be used in Latin during the Middle Ages.

In the Middle Ages, it was erroneously thought that IHS stood for Jesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, Savior of Men) or the popular English, “I have suffered.”  It is found as a sign for the Holy Name of Jesus.

The letters INRI, to be found inscribed above the head of the figure of the crucified Christ, the “corpus,” on most crucifixes, are the initials for the inscription which Pontius Pilate had placed on the cross of Our Lord, as the charge for which the Lord was crucified.

The Gospels give accounts of this inscription, stating that Pilate put “Jesus of Nazareth (literally, the Nazarene), King of the Jews.”  The Gospels tell us that this was inscribed in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.

INRI stands for the initials of the Latin inscription Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum. (9:9)

John the Baptist

John the Baptist is the son of the priest Zechariah and Elizabeth, a cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  John was born six months before Jesus.  Tradition places the home and birthplace of the Baptist six miles west of Jerusalem, where a Franciscan church marks the site.

What is known of this Saint is set down in Holy Scripture.  He has always had a chief place in the veneration given by Holy Church to the heroic servants of God.

John is called the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament, because he was raised in the Jewish tradition, underwent the same ritual of Mosaic circumcision, and was especially called to announce that “the God of Israel has visited His people.”

He was the new Elijah; he was the bearer of the news of preparation of the kingdom of redemption and grace.  He was a witness, and he was to be more than a prophet, for he gave testimony with his blood—the death of martyrdom imposed upon him by Herod.

While the feast days of other saints are celebrated on the day of their death, the birthday of St. John the Baptist is his feast day.  St. Augustine found June 24, which is near the summer solstice, appropriate for after the birth of John daylight begins to grow shorter, whereas, after the birth of Jesus daylight begins to grow longer.

The feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist dates from the Fourth Century in both the East and West.  This feast is one of the oldest in the liturgy of the Church, which came to be celebrated in accord with Luke 1:36, six months before the Lord’s birth.

A memorial of his death is celebrated on August 29. (9:8)

Baptism of the Lord

At first glance, the Baptism of the Lord might seem an odd feast since the Church teaches that the sacrament of Baptism is necessary for the remission of sins, particularly Original Sin.  Therefore, why was Christ baptized?  After all, He was born without Original Sin, and He lived His entire life without sinning.

We have to think He had no need of the sacrament, as we do.  But Christ’s baptism foreshadows our own baptism.  In submitting Himself humbly to the baptism of St. John the Baptist, Christ provided the example for the rest of us.

If He should be baptized, even though He had no need of it, how much more should the rest of us be thankful for this sacrament, which frees us from the darkness of sin and incorporates us into the Church, the life of Christ on earth!

His Baptism, therefore, was necessary—not for Him, but for us.  With the celebration of the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord the season of Christmas comes to a close.  (9:7)


The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the oldest Christian feasts, though, throughout the centuries, it has celebrated a variety of things.

Epiphany comes from a Greek meaning “to reveal,” and all of the various events celebrated by the Feast of the Epiphany are revelations of Christ to humanity.

Epiphany originally celebrated four different events, in the following order of importance: The Baptism of the Lord; Christ’s first miracle in the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana; the Birth of Christ; and the visitation of the Wise Men.  Each of these is a revelation of God to humankind.

Eventually, Western Christians separated out the celebration of the Nativity into Christmas; the Baptism of the Lord to the Sunday after January 6 (unless Epiphany falls on Sunday, January 7 or 8 then the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the next Monday); and the wedding at Cana to the Sunday following the Baptism of the Lord.

The Feast of Epiphany, therefore, commemorates the manifestation, the revelation, of God through Christ to the whole world (that is, to the Gentiles and not just the Jews) symbolized by the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, when they worshipped him and gave him gifts.

These Wise Men were guided through darkness by the light of the star.  The star is seen as a sign that leads the wise to Jesus.  (9:6)

Holy Family

The Holy Family consists of the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph.  Veneration of the Holy Family was formally begun in the 17th century.

The Feast Day of the Holy Family is the first Sunday after Christmas, or if that Sunday falls on the 1st, then it is celebrated on December 30th, which would be Friday is such years.

The Holy Family is the perfect example of family life for all Christians.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph should be the model in all things for our family life.  (9:5)


The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ.  Christmas is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The precise year of Jesus’ birth, which some historians place between 7 and 2 BC, is unknown.  His birth is mentioned in two of the four Gospels.

By the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date later adopted in the East.  The date of Christmas was chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after Jesus was conceived. (9:4)

Advent Traditions

In its symbolism, the Church continues to stress the penitential and preparatory nature of Advent.  Purple vestments are used, and the Gloria is omitted during Mass.

The only exception is on the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, when rose-colored vestments can be used.  This exception is designed to encourage us to continue our prayer and fasting, because we can see that Advent is more than halfway over.

Perhaps the best-known of all Advent symbols is the Advent wreath, a custom which originated in Germany.  Consisting of four candles (three purple and one pink) arranged in a circle with evergreen boughs (and often a fifth, white candle in the center), the Advent wreath corresponds to the four Sundays of Advent.

The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ.  The purple candles represent the penitential nature of the season, while the pink candle calls to mind the respite of Gaudete Sunday.

The white candle, when used, represents Christmas.  The candle flames signify Christ, the Light of the world. (9:3)