Except you ravish me.


Today’s readings:

And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness…
Acts 4:29

At this time there were about 3,000 Christians in the whole world. Some Protestants would have us imagine that, essentially, those 3,000 would be the entire population of Heaven. I’m not going to wager a Universalism that I won’t win because of free will, but I will wager the divine economy is a bit more lenient that some want to imagine. Those 3,000 Christians had a job to do: to witness to the Kingdom of Jesus and as they set about their business they met little opposition. Yet what they met was real enough. So they prayed one kick-butt prayer:

Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, you said by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly? The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed. Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and your will had long ago planned to take place. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

The Douay is even better:

Lord, thou art he that didst make heaven and earth, the sea and all things that are in them. Who, by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, hast said: Why did the Gentiles rage: and the people meditate vain things? The kings of the earth stood up: and the princes assembled together against the Lord and his Christ. For of a truth there assembled together in this city against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, To do what thy hand and thy counsel decreed to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants that with all confidence they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thy hand to cures and signs and wonders, to be done by the name of thy holy Son, Jesus. 

There are two things that I find awesome about this prayer: first although they recount the history of Jesus’ passion, there is no blame. Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews all conspired To do what thy hand and thy counsel decreed to be done. Everything was sucky, yes: but it was only what God wanted. In fact, in God’s mercy, that’s all that ever really happens. (All things work for the good of those who love the Lord.) So, the Church prays, “Here in Jerusalem everyone assembled against Jesus to do exactly what you planned anyway. Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, even mighty Augustus obeys God’s plans.” Now that the local authorities, though, are getting wise – and telling the Church to stop being the Church – the reaction is praising God.

How different is that from us today? On the one hand some act as if we cannot do the work the Church is called to do if the law does not allow us to. Some are afraid of losing tax benefits, or other practicalities. Some are convinced that the very end of Christianity in America is upon us. And some who have us hide away, to protect ourselves from the world: locked in a perpetual Upper Room Option, for fear of the world.

To this cringing, the Early Church – all 3,000 of them – who are about to change the spiritual, sexual, relational, financial, and political shape of the known world, all say: fiddlesticks. This is them saying fiddlesticks:

That’s the second thing that’s awesome about this prayer – all in verse 29 – “Take note of their threats and give us the cojones to not care.” (It’s in the Greek…ok, maybe not.) Most importantly, and actually in the Greek, the Church asks for the grace to proclaim God’s Logos. That’s Jesus, brothers and sisters: the logic by which all of everything is understood and, without whom you may have all the facts in the world, but not the Truth.

Being told “Don’t do anything in the name of Jesus ever again” the Church did not run away and hide but rather trusted in God’s divine mercy and said, “God’s got this and we’re just going to keep going.” This, my friends, is the Pascha Option. Life has won. #GodWins It doesn’t matter how the state changes definitions, or how far the world goes to kill us off. In fact, we know that when the world does that, we’re doing something right! When the Church kneels down and says, “Just give us the grace to do what you told us to do…” God’s divine Boo-yah! shakes the house.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, so I will just admit how I fail all the time. I’m scared a lot. I need this prayer every moment of the day. I need to remember the Pascha Option. It’s deceptively simple: We’re a mess. God came – himself – to fix us and transformed the very fabric of the universe. Now, even the sucky things are God restoring us to his glory. The Jesus Psalter would have us pray “Jesus, send me here my purgatory.” Send me here all the tribulations and pains I can handle to prune off my pride, my impatience, my lack of charity, my lust. That way I can be more-fit for the society of angels. Send me here the pains I deserve, the sharp corners I must turn. Put me here in the rock tumbler and make me into the Christian you want me to be.

John Donne prays:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. 

None of those pains are designed to make me shut up proclaiming the divine Logos: rather, in grace, I have to breath deep of the Divine Light and shout, all the louder, from the root-top.

The Thomas Option


Today’s Readings:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews… Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
John 20:19a, 24
Where was Thomas that first night and why was he not locked up for fear with all the others?
Fear of the Parties in Power does not mean there was any real danger. For all we know from our point in history, perhaps literally every Jew is Jerusalem was home enjoying a family meal and avoiding leavened products. Maybe they thought they’d finally done away with this trouble-maker and his disciples were only so much dust. The Romans didn’t care: they did their job and killed the guy, albeit a bit unwillingly. I don’t think they would want to risk much trouble on the feast either.
In the lessons from Acts this week at Mass, it would seem that Peter has to remind Caiaphas about the guy he had killed.  I don’t think anyone cared. Yet the disciples had seen their master slain.  I don’t think they were illogically afraid. Yet we can never know how in sync they were with what was actually going on in Jerusalem at that time. It seems possible that their emotions were getting away from them. That crazy woman was getting annoying about her gardener. Matthew says when they saw him, “they worshipped him” but, even then, “some doubted”.
So where was Thomas?
The Church Fathers posit the “earthliness” or, if you will, “carnal” nature of Thomas’ lack of faith. And I’m ok with that. But let me read that same claim a bit further.
Would not the same man who says “Unless I see and touch him” also say “Unless I see a soldier coming at me, I’m not going to worry about it”?  When the Apostles were hiding out, is it not possible that, seeing how scared they were, Thomas did the manly (maybe brash and stupid as well) thing and went out to grab some food? Later, when Luke and Cleopus get back from Emmaus, “The Eleven” are all there, so he was only out for a short while. “We need food: someone has to get it and I’m not going to let my fear run away with me…” sounds like the same bro who would later say, “I’m not going to let my false hopes run away with me.”
This is the Thomas Option then: to not hide out for fear of Jews or Romans. To get out and do something in the service of the Community that might get you killed and know that Jesus was talking to us when he said “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Liturgical Doodles

I’m given to understand that “back in the day” there were no “Vigil Masses” on Saturday Night and that proper piety in the West (as in the East) involved attending Saturday Vespers where one might also make confession. I’ve no idea if this “day” was 100 years ago or 1,000, but Saturday Vespers leading into Sunday seem a good thing.

I know also from my Anglo-Catholic days that at one time (up until the mid 20th Century) Sunday also included a parochial Sung Vespers (Evensong) service together with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.  The snarky queens in Seminary would call it Evenscreach and Cookie Worship before going out to serve the pious of whom they made such fun.

The Slavic Orthodox tradition serves something called “the All-Night Vigil” on Saturdays. Although it is usually only 2.5 hours long at the fullest, it can be made torturously into nearly eight hours of worship. Liturgically, though, it is “all night” in that it is Vespers and Compline of the previous evening, together with Matins and the first hour (Prime) of Sunday. So leaving Church at some late evening point on Saturday, it is already Sunday at Dawn, in liturgical time, anyway.  This is not done in other Orthodox traditions, perhaps because the long Russian Winter Nights required the whole parish to pray together for warmth.

Read as a package, all of these events from the Slavic Vigil service to the Anglo-Catholic Benediction, with Sunday mass in the middle, of course, can be seen to be ways of “extending the Sabbath”, of letting the weekly Feast of the Resurrection be longer than just one midmorning Communion service. This is, it seems to me, a laudable practice. Yet if one were to try to attempt sch a thing in a modern, Novus Ordo parish there would be a mass on Saturday night, and probably two more on Sunday afternoon and evening that would get in the way. Vigil Masses and multiple Sunday Masses are pastoral necessities, dictated by the cruise-ship size of many parishes as well as the work schedules of many people for whom 9-5 M-F is a middle class, mostly White, largely Suburban possibility. What follows, therefore, is only a doodle, a sort of Fantastic Liturgical Voyage, using the tools available to a parish of a certain size, in a way that would be fully within the Western, Catholic tradition and using it to the fullest.

Saturday Evening: A seemless wedding of Vespers with the Office of Readings, including the Vigil Canticles, Resurrection Gospel, and the Te Deum.

This is done by moving the intercessions from the end of Vespers to the end of the Office of Readings.

The Psalms and Canticles could be chanted by the congregation and the choir, or else a little of both: with the choir doing fancy versions, whilst the Congregation sticks to antiphonal chanting and/or reading. There are hymns appointed, although there are many available. Using the Psalm Prayers and adding a Homily would make this a fuller experience, as would laying on of incense at the Magnificat and at the Te Deum. Venite optional…

Early Low Mass on Sunday w/Morning Prayer.
This is currently done at my Dominican Parish on Saturday. The Psalms of Saturday Morning Prayer are chanted before the Penitential Rites, with the Benedictus sung as a post communion. This could be done as easily on Sunday.

Pull out all the stops for High Mass on Sunday.

Then, Sunday evening, once again with the Psalms, serve Evening Prayer and Benediction, followed by Sunday Compline. Incense at the Magnificat, at Benediction, and at the Nunc Dimitiis in Compline.  Again, take the intercessions from the end of Vespers and add them to the end of Compline.  If needed a Homily or reflection could be done after the Benediction.

I would, fantastically, add shared parochial meals before the evening services and after the High Mass.  This also comes from Byzantine practice, and as a community building tool it cannot be underestimated. Let the men’s club do Sunday night, the Women’s club Saturday, with the Youth doing a perpetual Pancake brunch on Sunday.

Again, just dreaming.  But if you got a Liturgy of the Hours book handy, you can see what all it could be.

Praying the (WR-OF-EF) Mass

In both Western Rite Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism (EF and OF) there are liturgical texts assigned for nearly every day’s Mass.  The “nearly” is because sometimes it’s a repetition of the previous Sunday’s mass. It is beneficial for the layperson who cannot get to church on a given day to pray and meditate on those texts as a way to practice the faith and stay “in communion” with the Church even when not being able to get to Mass.

The method suggested below is based on the “Missa Sicca” or “Dry Mass” which was used in earlier days (up til the mid 16th Century) by priests who could not, for one reason or another, get to say Mass on a given day. It is combined with a few prayers from another source of devotions during Mass. Until about 100 years ago it was popular piety for the laity to participate in mass by saying vernacular prayers appropriate to what was happening at the altar.

Below you will find a private, devotional method for “Praying the Mass” that should be usable by both Western Rite and Roman Catholic readers, be the latter participants in a Latin Mass community or a Novus Ordo community. I have used various Prayers at Mass from a book called The Key of Heaven, printed in the mid 1930s with the Imprimatur of the then-Bishop of Indianapolis. I hope the notes make it clear what to do and say – but please let me know if there is anything unclear or if anything seems “Un(o)thodox” in any way. Below the language and Rubrics are for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, by far the most common. However at the end of the page are links to to PDFs for downloading for the Extraordinary Form and for Western Rite Orthodox.
A form of
Missa Sicca for Lay Use
when unable to attend Mass
(in the Ordinary Form).
Begin with the sign of the Cross, saying:
✠ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If one is appointed for the day, say the Entrance Antiphon from the Missal. Generally, the days of the week use the one for the preceding Sunday. You may skip this.
Then this prayer:
O my God, though I cannot draw near to your altar at this time I do so now spiritually to gain new strength and vigor to my soul’ separate me from those unbelievers who have no trust in you, grant me that grace which comforts me when the remembrance of my sins afflicts me and casts me down; that grace which lets me know there is an everlasting refuge in your goodness and that you are always ready to forgive even our greatest sins. Amen.
Say this prayer from the Penitential Rite:
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, And, striking your breast, say: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Then say the Kyrie.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.
Make an act of Contrition:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins because of your just punishments, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.
If it is appointed for the day then say the Gloria here. (Omit during Advent and Lent.)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Say the Collect or prayer of the day from your Missal. You can also find it online.
Before the Epistle or any Lessons say this prayer:
May you be eternally praised and blessed, O Lord,  for having communicated your Spirit to the holy prophets and apostles, disclosing to them admirable secrets, redounding to you glory and our great good. We firmly believe their word, because it is yours. Give us, we beg, the happiness to understand from the Church, by their instructions, what is profitable, and grace to practice the same all our lives. Amen.
Read the lessons for Mass from your missal.  If you have any lessons assigned before the Epistle, read them as well, and then the Epistle and Gospel of the day.  Include any Responsorial Psalms, Graduals, and Alleluias. If there are any collects or prayers appointed between the readings (as there may be on certain fasting days) say those as well.
After the Alleluia and before the Gospel say this prayer:
May you be ever adored and praised, O Lord, who, not content to instruct and inform us by the prophets and apostles. You have even vouchsafed to speak to us by your only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, commanding us, by a voice from heaven, to hear HIm: grant us, O Merciful God, the grace to profit by His divine and heavenly doctrine. All that is written of you, dread Jesus, in your gospel, is truth itself: nothing but wisdom in your actions; power and goodness in your miracles; light and instruction in your words. With you, sacred redeemer, are the words of eternal life: to whom shall we go, but to you, eternal Fountain of Truth! Give me, O God, grace to practice what you command, and command what you will.
After the Gospel, makes these acts of Faith, Hope, and Love as follows (On Sundays or Feast days say, also, the Nicene Creed using your familiar form):
Act of Faith
O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this faith I intend to live and die. Amen.
Act of Hope
O my God, I hope by your grace for the pardon of all my sins and after life here to gain eternal happiness because you have promised it who are infinitely powerful, faithful, kind, and merciful. In this hope I intend to live and die. Amen.
Act of Love
O my God, I love you above all things and I love my neighbor for your sake because you are the highest, infinite and perfect good, worthy of all my love. I forgive all who have injured me and I beg pardon of all whom I have injured. In this love I intend to live and die. Amen.

Then, having prepared yourself with all the foregoing, make a Spiritual Communion using this or another form.
I cannot this day enjoy the happiness of assisting at the holy Mysteries, O my God! I transport myself in spirit at the foot of your altar; I unite with the Church, which by the hands of the priest, offers you your own adorable Son in the Holy Sacrifice; I offer myself with Him, by Him, and in His Name. I adore, I praise, and thank you, imploring your mercy, invoking your assistance, and presenting you the homage I owe you as my Creator, the love due you as my Savior.
At your feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer you the repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in your holy presence. I adore you in the Sacrament of your love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive you into the poor dwelling that my heart offers you. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess you in spirit. As you came once to the house of Zacchaeus, come to me, O my Jesus. I, for my part, am coming to you! May your love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you. Amen.
Then end with the following prayers:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore. Amen
✠ In the Name of the Father &c. Amen.
Here are downloadable PDFs of for use in the Orthodox Western Rite, and the Roman Rite in the Extraordinary Form (the TLM 1962), and the Ordinary Form