Sunday, January 20, 2019

2nd Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

JANUARY 20, 2019

A hat trick in ice hockey is when a player scores three goals in the same game.

Currently, when a player scores a hat trick - that is three goals - fans toss their own hats onto the ice.

The origins are a bit murkier lost in the history of the early 20th century.

Multiple sources in different cities claim that local haberdashers - that is hat-makers - would make a gift of a fedora to any player who achieved three goals. While this appears to be the official story upheld by the Hockey Hall of Fame, which places the occurrence in Chicago in the 1940s. Toronto, Montreal, and Guelph all claim to have been the origin.

Yet, the term was in use already in the 1930s. And the term “hat trick” was so well known by the 1940s that the Amateur Hockey Association was giving away small silver derbies – sort of like the Monopoly playing piece – by the mid 1940s.

Wayne Gretzky holds the record for the most career hat tricks – with 50 under his belt. The first hat trick was scored in 1917, while the fastest “perfect” hat trick – that is, three scores in a row – is 21 seconds.

A humorous variation, named after a Detroit Red Wings player, is the Gordie Howe hat-trick: scoring a goal, getting an assist, and then getting in a fight.

Wherever it came from, it is part of the language of ice hockey to this day.

Today is the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. 

Our Gospel reading is from the second chapter of St. John’s Gospel – the Wedding Feast at Cana.
The Wedding at Cana is sort of third piece of a “hat trick” of Gospel events known as “theophanies.” A theophany is a visible manifestation of God. 

As John tells us, this is Jesus’s first miracle, and yet it is the third theophany.

The other two have been played out over the past several weeks in the Epiphany – when Jesus is first recognized by the Gentiles as “king and God and sacrifice;” and in the Baptism of the Lord – where as Jesus comes out of the water, the Trinity is shown forth in the Father’s voice, the Son – in Jesus himself – and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove.

In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he points out a sort of “hat-trick” to remind us that:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God …

In Paul’s time, as in ours, there were divisions among Christians – not just what we might consider denominational differences – but even with individual communities. St. Paul wants to emphasize that no matter what your role, we are called to unity in the Trinity. There is one God, one Lord, and one Spirit. And if the we acknowledge three divine Persons united in the Trinity – then through the grace and power of that same God – we should seek to resolve and remove any and all divisions among Christians.

In the first reading from Isaiah, we hear that God will not be silent until Israel is reconciled to Him, and until all nations are reconciled through, with, and in Him. 

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and as we will shortly profess the Creed – our belief in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that we might be united in Christ Jesus, by the power of God … so that as we are filled with the Spirit of God, we might make manifest in the world the saving power of the Most Holy Trinity – in whom we have been baptized.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Epiphany @ St. Apollinaris Parish

JANUARY 6, 2019

Henry Van Dyke - a Presbyterian minister, author, and statesman - was born in 1830 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He taught English Literature at Princeton University and lectured at the University of Paris. President Woodrow Wilson appointed him Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg. He also wrote the lyrics for the hymn “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee,” which many of us are familiar with.

Van Dyke wrote two Christmas stories: The First Christmas Tree - in 1897; and before that The Other Wise Man - in 1896.

In the story, The Other Wise Man, Van Dyke writes about a fictional fourth wise man who it would seem was always a little bit behind schedule.

On his way to rendezvous with the three magi, he stops to help a dying man - and so is late. By the time he arrives, their caravan has set out across the desert. He is forced to sell 1/3 of his treasure to finance his own journey to Bethlehem.

When he arrives in Bethlehem, it is in the midst of the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod. The Holy Family has already fled to Egypt; and this wise man again uses 1/3 of his treasure to save the life of a child by paying off the troops sent to kill the children.

For thirty-three years he travels around - always just a few steps behind Jesus - living his life as a pilgrim and as one seeking for Jesus. When he finally finds Jesus, it is in Jerusalem ... on Good Friday. He is again distracted, using the last 1/3 of his treasure to ransom a young woman from being sold into slavery.

At the death of Jesus, the sun is darkened, and the earth shakes. Our fourth wise man is trapped under a falling stone at the temple. He feels that he has failed in his life’s quest - having never met Jesus ... and spending his treasure which was intended for the Christ Child, the newborn King, so many years before.

As he is dying - filled with remorse - he hears a voice that tells him:
 Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it 
 unto one of the least of these my brethren, 
 thou hast done it unto me.

That is, despite what appeared to be failures to achieve his own life’s goal, he had lived out the Beatitudes in his acts of mercy and charity. And in that sense, had not only met Jesus - but had served as the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

For ourselves, especially around this time of year, we make “New Year’s Resolutions.” To lose weight, or read more, or work harder, or be nicer. Whatever they may be. And more often than not, it only lasts a couple of day or maybe weeks.

At the end of the Gospel reading we hear that the Magi did not return the way they came, but that they “departed … by another way.

There is a significance to this final line. To truly meet Christ Jesus in the flesh means to be transformed … to be changed. As Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen noted,
No one who ever meets Christ with a good will returns the same way as [they] came.

And so, as we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; let us pray for the graces to truly be renewed by Christ’s presence among us. May we discover Him always in our daily lives … and be His hands and His feet … His mouth and His ears … out and about … in the world.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Mary, Mother of God @ St. Apollinaris Parish

JANUARY 1, 2019

Several years ago, my sainted mother asked me around this time of the year:
What happened to the Feast of the Circumcision?
Now, I’m sure there’s no other word that can cause a grown man to cringe physically – except maybe “Romantic Comedy” – just kidding … but indeed, what happened to this feast?

Looking online at a liturgical resource, we have the Feast of the Circumcision going back into the 13th and 14th centuries; and it is recorded in the Missal before the Tridentine reforms in 1568, and continues to exist until 1955 when it is called quite simply “The Octave Day of Christmas.

Which is strange, since it is quite biblical, and this is read at Mass today:
When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Fifteen years later, in 1970, to make things even more confusing, the feast was renamed for a Roman feast day celebrated in the time of the Fathers of the Church called the “Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

Historically, for the Chosen People, circumcision was the very physical sign of their covenant with God. The entirety of Chapter 17 of Genesis is devoted to this covenant. In the 1962 liturgy it is not read at all in any Mass, and in the 1970 liturgy (no pun intended) it seems we get a cut-and-paste version of Chapter 17 in our Lectionary readings (if at all) on the Friday of the 12th Week of Ordinary Time every other year; and on the Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent every year.

So what’s it all about?

Oddly, or interestingly, the 500 plus year old prayers associated with this day are unchanged. So, whatever we call it, it’s basically the same Mass.

Circumcision has multiple purposes in the ancient world.

One consideration is hygiene. Even in today’s modern era, it seems to provide protection against some diseases.

Another was as a sign of membership in a tribe. This is still seen in parts of the Middle East and Africa.

It could also be a sign of defeat or submission. Ancient warfare often had all men of fighting age slaughtered after a surrender. This was considered a less brutal way of marking a defeated tribe or nation.

So what does this have to do with Jesus?

First, this “marked” Jesus as a descendent of Abraham and the prophecy in Genesis 17 that Abraham (at the age of 99) would father a son Israel who would bring about an enormous family of descendants, one of whom – the anointed one, the Messiah, would save Israel and be a blessing to all nations.

So, Jesus, through the Circumcision becomes of the tribe of Abraham.

Also, Abraham, at the age of 99, took this mark as a sign of submission to God. And it was passed on for thousands of years to all of his descendants. It reminds us of the earliest covenant with Abraham and the anticipation of Israel for thousands of years.

Finally, it is a foreshadowing of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. Because in fulfilling this Jewish ritual, His most Precious Blood was spilled for the first time. For indeed, there is but a short distance between the wood of the Creche and the wood of the Cross.

And so, Mom, what happened to the Feast of the Circumcision? It’s still here. But the names have been changed – perhaps out of a mid-century prissiness, perhaps out of a hyper-historicity – I’m just not sure.

But the Feast of the Circumcision reminds of us Jesus’s connection to Abraham, as well as His total submission to the Will of His Father, and commemorates the first shedding of His Blood as a foreshadowing of His Passion.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us – in looking at the Creche see a foreshadowing of the Cross. And on this the eighth day – the day of Jesus’s Circumcision – may we circumcise our hearts, as St. Paul says, surrendering them to the power of God Almighty … and as a sign of our kinship to God in Christ.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Holy Family @ St. Apollinaris Parish

DECEMBER 30, 2018

Completed in the year 1086 at the direction of William the Conquerer, the Domesday Book recorded how many hundreds of family estates were in each shire within the several counties of England and Wales; as well as what taxes were owed to the king.

After the wholesale redistribution of land following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the principle purpose of the survey was to determine what taxes were owed to William’s father – Edward the Confessor.

Not until the Victorian era Return of Owners of Land survey in 1873 – nearly 800 years later – was any survey of such extent and scope attempted in England.

In the 11th century, William’s purpose was to assess the financial resources of his kingdom; yet from an historical perspective, it can be shown which family held what lands as well as the land valuation of each estate … nearly one millennium ago.

The original manuscript from 1086 is held at the British Nation Archives at Kew (a district in the borough of Richmond on Thames) in London.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family which is normally the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas.
An Octave is an eight-day extension of a particular feast. At one time, the Church held as many as 20 octaves associated with various feasts. In the simplification of ecclesiastical calendar in 1969, the Solemnities of Christmas and Easter are the only two feasts retaining Octaves.

Veneration of the Holy Family was formally instituted by the first bishop of Quebec in the last quarter of the 17th century.

It was instituted as a liturgical feast by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 as the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany (that is one week later than now). In the Extraordinary Form (the liturgical usage of 1962) it falls on the Octave day of the Epiphany – or January 13.

In instituting the Feast at the end of the the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII indicated that among the fruits of devotion to the Holy Family in the home:
charity is likely to be maintained in the family … a good influence is thus exerted over conduct … the practice of virtue is thus incited … and thus the hardships … are both mitigated and made easier to bear.
He further indicated that:
Joseph [gives fathers a] model of … vigilance and care. [Mary gives] mothers … an excellent example of love, modesty … [and] faith. And in Jesus … children … have a divine pattern of obedience …

In our own time, Pope Francis calls on all families to “find precious guidance for the style and choices of life, and … [to] draw strength and wisdom for each day’s journey” from the example of the Holy Family.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us each from within our own family … seek to model our lives on the virtues and example of the Holy Family of Nazareth. May we always look to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for guidance, strength, example, and perseverance.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas @ St. Apollinaris Parish

DECEMBER 24 / 25, 2018

The year was 1968, and it was known as “The Year the Changed the World,” or “The Year that Changed America.”

The very unpopular Vietnam War was underway – and increasing numbers of troops were being drafted. The US was in the middle of the Cold War as well as the Space Race with the Soviet Union.

Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee – leading to riots in many major cities. Two months later, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.

The Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl, and the Detroit Tigers won the World Series.

The most profitable movie of the year was 2001: A Space Odyssey; while Hey Jude was the hottest single of the year.

Indeed the people were changing, America was changing, and the world was changing.

On the shortest day of the year, Apollo 8 was launched out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The second manned launch aboard a Saturn V rocket, with a three-man crew.

It was to be the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and return to Earth.

Three days after launch, orbiting the Moon, the astronauts saw for the first time … the Earth rising over the Moon.

They also took this opportunity to read 10 verses from the Book of Genesis, which began:
In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.

This of course led to multiple lawsuits from atheist Madeline Murray O’Hare – all three of which she lost through a failure to state a claim. I’m not sure if the astronauts having committed the offending action more than 230,000 nautical miles from any Earthly jurisdiction factored into it, but that’s my opinion.

The crew splashed down on December 27, and were named Time Magazine’s “Men of the Year.” Six months later, the US Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating this historic spaceflight.

Fifty years later, astronaut Jim Lovell, now 90 years old, commented that when they saw the Earth from the moon, so many hundreds of thousands of miles away, it struck him how fortunate we are to live:
on a planet that has the proper mass, has the gravity to contain water and an atmosphere, which are the very essentials for life," he said. "And you arrive on this planet that's orbiting a star just at the right distance — not too far to be too cold, or too close to be too hot — and just at the right distance to absorb that star's energy and then, with that energy, cause life to [exist] here in the first place.
Today, of course, is Christmas. And the Gospel we heard proclaimed was from the beginning of St. John. Which, like Genesis, starts out:
In the beginning …
While Genesis recounts the creation of all things … St. John’s Prologue recounts the re-creation of all things in Christ.

The coming of this one child – true God and true Man – in order to change us … so that we might change the world.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us pray that the birth of Jesus Christ, when viewed by us through the distance of two thousand year, may give us pause and recognize that He has come … not only to us … but for us … right here and right now … sacramentally in the Eucharist … in order to transform us from who we are … into who God calls us to become.

On behalf of our pastor and myself, and all the deacons … staff … and volunteers … here at St. A’s … have a Blessed and Merry Christmas. And may you know and experience the transforming power of Christ, born for us today.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

1st Sunday of Advent @ St. Apollinaris Parish

DECEMBER 1 / 2, 2018

The linguistic terms andative and venitive refer to verb forms that indicate coming and going, especially when it is relative to a particular location or person. The andative indicates going and doing something; while the venitive indicates coming and doing something.

In modern English, however, it can more often than not, be assumed that come and go are interchangeable; with the exception of a handful of particular situations.

For a native speaker, it requires no thought or effort at all. Whereas, for those learning English, it can be quite confusing.

And, on the other hand, when an English speaker tries to learn another language, they have to give some extra thought to using come or go in distinct and different ways – based on the rules of whatever particular language they are using.

That can all be a bit confusing. So I’ll leave you with the idiom: I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, which may be appropriate after all of that.

Today is the First Sunday of Advent.

The word advent comes from the Latin word advenire – which means to reach or to arrive. The prefix ad implies motion towards something, and the verb venire can mean both to go or to come.
This Latin word is a translation of the Greek word parousia which can mean presence, arrival, or an official visit.

In the New Testament, the word parousia shows up 24 times – 16 of which refer to the Second Coming of Christ.

And so, in the Season of Advent, we penitentially prepare ourselves for the arrival of Jesus Christ.

In the Collect, or the Opening Prayer, we prayed
Grant your faithful … the resolve to run forth to meet … Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.
And so, even in the first prayer we pray in the Advent Season, Christ is coming and we are going … running forth to meet Him … as He comes toward us.

The Season of Advent reflects upon the coming of Christ from three distinct perspectives. (1) His first coming, historically in Bethlehem, (2) His daily coming, in our hearts sacramentally, and (3) His glorious coming, ultimately, at the end of time.

As far as these three perspectives, we only have control over the second – how much or how little we allow Christ to come into our hearts through our participation in the sacraments and through the intensity of our prayer lives.

And as time rolls on … whether we like it or not – we move closer to that future coming – whether or not we’re around to experience it in this flesh.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray for a renewed resolve – these next four weeks – to indeed run forth and meet Christ Jesus – in whatever ways He may desire to come into our lives.

As we recall His first coming, may we allow Him more and more space in our lives; and when He comes in glory, may we go out to meet Him with all the Saints.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Christ the King @ St. Apollinaris Parish

NOVEMBER 25, 2018

The word “king” has an etymology stretching back to Anglo-Saxon times in the work “cyning.” This ancient word has two part one meaning “kin” or “relative” and the other meaning “son”. The king was the “favored son of a relative”.

If we look at the Latin word for king, “rex” – we see its root in such English words as “correct” or “direct”. That is, to order or to set aright.

The Chinese word for “king” is “wang2” – and the character symbol indicates someone who unites heaven and earth and humanity.

The Greek word for “king” is “basileus” – where we get the modern term “basilica” a “royal hall” or perhaps, with apologies to the Jehovah Witnesses a “kingdom hall.”

And while that word may have its origins in the Roman Empire, in the light of today’s Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or perhaps more simply, Christ the King Sunday, perhaps these word associations can provide a guide.

Jesus is most certainly our “kin” in that as He is the Word Incarnate – the Word made Flesh … True God and True Man – His humanity has elevated our human nature.

He is the Favored Son of God the Father, and so our English word “king” most certainly applies.

As the Eternal Logos, the ordering principal in creation, He has set things aright, and has not only guided creation, but given us a rule of life and the means to attain it through Grace.

He has reconciled all things to himself – united heaven and earth in His Person – and brought peace through His Blood on the Cross.

And finally, we call Him Lord, and in this “hall” we give worship to God through Jesus Christ His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps the difficulty for us as 21st Century Americans – living in a Constitutional Republic, and having just completed mid-term elections … is that we my see “kings” as a vestige of an outdated mode of governance.

Kings figure in our lives, but perhaps as the “Burger King,” or “China King Buffet,” or a “King-Sized” drink or candy bar.

We know who the King of Rock and Roll is (Elvis), the King of Pop (Michael Jackson,) and perhaps we’ve forgotten the King of Bling (Liberace.)

We have kings in our playing cards, in our checkers sets, and as the most protected member of our chess games.

There are king crabs on our oceans (and on our menus), as well as king snakes and king cobras in our zoos.

We may end up taking “kings” for granted as just another word. And this may make our understanding of this feast fall short of it full glory.

When Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925, his focus was more on the lack of sovereignty for the defunct Papal States, and the loss of civil power by the Vatican.

After the establishment of the Vatican City State in 1929, the focus of this feast became more eschatological – the future reign of Christ in the Kingdom of God.

But we lose something if we look too far ahead.

Jesus must reign in our hearts, our minds, our souls, and in our wills. He must reign over our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

And to do that, we must give Him “free reign” over us – and allow Him to truly be our King and our Lord and our Master. And that doesn’t sound very “democratic” … nor does it sound very “American.”

And so, it can be a bit of a struggle for us.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray to surrender ourselves entirely to Christ. Let Him be the conquering king … over sin and death, but also over us.

May Christ reign in our hearts, in our souls, in our minds, and in our lives … every minute … of every day. Long live Christ the King!