moving toward

Mar 8, 2021

My earliest church memories were of Mass according to what we now know as the “Extraordinary Form” of the Mass, the Mass celebrated in Latin according to the rite used for 400 years until the late 1960’s.

I unashamedly confess a curiosity about this form of the Mass since it is the worship my parents, grandparents and generations of my ancestors before them were raised with and by which their relationship with Jesus was sustained and matured.

I even remember the first words of this Mass after the Sign of the Cross, with the priest standing at the foot of the altar steps. These opening words were from the psalm for today’s Mass for the Monday of this third week of Lent.

Many Catholics older than me can still respond to this verse from psalm 42 with the priest beginning: “Introibo ad altare Dei,” (I will go to the altar of God), and the server responding audibly (and the people silently) in the Latin they all knew by heart: “ad Deum qui lætificat iuventutem meam“… (to God who gives joy to my youth.)

I always liked the image of going towards the altar, literally the high place, the place of sacrifice, and not any altar, but the table of God.

When I pray I will go the altar of God this table image is rich for me.

I think of spending time at the table of friends, slow food and drink with people I love and trust, hours rich with conversation and love, all my physical senses engaged in this earthly foretaste of the eternal banquet.

As I step towards the altar of God my imagination is filled with thoughts of high points, the mountain-tops, places of perspective where an elevated view and a wider lens adjusts my vision enabling me to loosen my grip on today’s anxieties and move into tonight and tomorrow more peacefully.

I think of sacrifice, not my hard-gritted-teeth Lenten giving-ups, but the times when someone made sacrifice for me, and the many fewer times when I sacrificed for someone else and was immediately rewarded with knowing that it is in giving that I receive.

This is the altar that I am happy to go to not only for communal worship, but whenever I pray. “I will go…”

Routinely my prayer is the formal prayer of the Church, the Eucharist and the Hours which I pray with the whole Church The Prayer of the Church, morning, evening, night, remembering as I pray when alone that I am never praying alone.

Sometimes over my decades the circumstances of my life has been a bit tough and challenging, and there have been times when I know I’m walking but I’m not sure whether I’m walking towards or away from God. In these times I fear that I’m walking toward the superficial attraction and glamour rather than towards the adventure and action of Jesus with Jesus.

Then there are other times when, while I’m fumbling, that I sense that I’m being carried in the right direction. That feels a bit like walking through the carriages towards the back of the train that is moving forward. At least I know that I am being carried in the right direction and in these moments that is more than enough for me, being carried…

…towards the God who gives joy to my youth.

I love that! My realisation that youth-filled joy stays with the person who stays with Jesus since true youth and real joy is not a human achievement, It is God who restores both joy and youthfulness.

And then I remember that every time we go to God we savour the joy of being not an anxious 40 year old, a weary 50 year old or a worried 90 year old since we are created for a joy-filled eternity, and while on earth we are passing through the birth-pangs of entry to that paradise.

I’m reminded of the 100 year old woman who was asked if she had any comments on reaching 100 years of age. Yes, she said; If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!

An Invitation:

  • Which word or phrase in the reflection above gives you most hope?

7 Comments

  1. All the words give me hope.
    I think I must be a little bit older than you, John, because I can respond to the verse from Psalm 42 …

    Your morning reflection captured a host of heartfelt memories of my youth – The Latin Mass, The Organ Music played in a divine manner from the loft above the congregation in the old St Mary’s Church, the Latin Hymns, and the call of Latin responses from the hopeful people

    My journeys on the steam train from Whanganui to Palmerston North as a youngster with my Irish Grandmother and the nostalgic train rides from Hamilton to Marton as a young Secondary CollegeTeacher returning home at the end of the school terms, walking along the wobbly carriages carrying my thick white cup of tepid tea with a sense of youth filled joy and hopefulness.

    I empathized with the mature lady who wished she had taken better care of herself when she was younger …… I think I would have listened to a lot more music from a very young age because it is also a phenomenal manifestation of divine hope and joy and allows the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the lame to walk. +

    Thank you

    Manaakitanga
    Virginia

    Reply
  2. I will go… being carried…savouring the joy of being…

    Reply
  3. I remember in the early 1950s riding my bike on a frosty morning to serve Mass for old Mons McManus. I think I could recite all the latin responses with minimal prompting. After eveving Benediction the Mons taught us to look at the ordo for next day’s Mass and then set out the vestments correctly with the chasuble first, and finally with the alb, cincture and amice on top. Many memories of the “old” Mass and what it meant to so many people. So nostalgia but no regret because Mass now carries so much more because we are now led to find Jesus in the Word as well as in Eucharist. John, thank you for what you share with us in your daily posts.

    Reply
  4. A wonderful reflection. Days passed of cycling as a child down the Wadestown Hill to the Bascilla for 7am Mass in Latin. Having been taught by the Nuns at Guildford Tce school. Learning the reverence of the Mass the Eucharist and the holiness of my surroundings.
    To have the gift of sharing with those around me. Praise the Lord.

    Reply
    • I am more taken by today’s tile : moving toward. I don’t share many of the memories of some others but today’s reflection reminds me that we are always endeavouring to move towards God. Todays parlance would have us ‘leaning into’ God

      Whatever phrase we use the thought of going up to the altar of the lord is comforting; a place of strength of solace and of wisdom. And while it is but an image it implies an act of our spiritual will which is a the root of our journey towards God

      Reply
  5. The memories welled up for me too! During the heady days of the Catholic Youth Movement in Wellington in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Dialogue Masses happened! Instead of being like an audience, we were allowed to be involved – we learned all the Altar Boy’s Latin responses (yes, they were always boys!) – and said them with him.

    We were also allowed to read the Bible which we had not done before – the only Biblical passages we heard were read by the priest at the Mass (originally in Latin but later in English as well!) it was literally a revelation to have Gospel discussions at our CYM meetings.

    have often wondered why, as Children of Mary, we recited the Rosary out loud during the Mass!

    Thanks be to God for our Masses of today where our parishioners are able to participate in many Ministries. Thank you John for FFF, especially when we were in level 2 of Lockdown with no Masses.

    Reply
  6. I loved your “TRAIN CARRIAGE”
    story, it reminded me,of
    Sitting in a (train “caf’e” carriage)
    After we had lost our Daughter,
    WOW”we WERE”being carried”
    Thankyou SO very much
    Fr John,I wont forget that. Ever.

    Reply

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