“Ere God had built the mountains,
Or raised the fruitful hills;
Before he fill’d the fountains
That feed the running rills;
In me from everlasting,
The wonderful I am,
Found pleasures never wasting,
And Wisdom is my name.
“When, like a tent to dwell in,
He spread the skies abroad,
And swathed about the swelling
Of Ocean’s mighty flood;
He wrought by weight and measure,
And I was with Him then:
Myself the Father’s pleasure,
And mine, the sons of men.”
Thus Wisdom’s words discover
Thy glory and Thy grace,
Thou everlasting lover
Of our unworthy race!
Thy gracious eye survey’d us
Ere stars were seen above;
In wisdom thou hast made us,
And died for us in love.
And couldst thou be delighted
With creatures such as we,
Who, when we saw Thee, slighted,
And nail’d Thee to a tree?
And mystery divine!
The voice that speaks in thunder,
Says, “Sinner, I am thine!”
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.
Young people of every generation have their own slang and their own priorities. One of the expressions that comes up in young adults’ conversations about Church art and catechesis is “cringe.” Cringe is what young people experience when older people are trying too hard to meet them at their (supposed) level. This is one of the funnier memes used to express this experience.
Well-meaning efforts to reach devout young people often fail on this account: to the young people themselves, there is an obvious and embarassingly overeager desire to connect with them. The problem is more than just the lack of respect for oneself and others that this implies. The main problems, as expressed by the young people, include the following:
- Older people guess, wrongly, about what young people need
- Older people impose unwanted, supposedly relevant experiences on young people
- Older people’s ideas of the relevant are often outdated
- Older people do not listen to young people express their own preferences
Just to focus on this last point, it seems undeniable that young people who are serious about their faith tend to prefer more traditional expressions of worship than older people do. Increasingly, the “guitar Mass” is attended by older people, and the more solemn Masses are attended by young people. Young women wear veils. Young people kneel for Communion and receive on the tongue. Young people crowd Masses in the Extraordinary Form. In short, we have a full-blown “generation gap,” only this time–51 years now after the “Summer of Love”–only this time it is upside down. The devout young are not the revolutionaries, but the custodians of something that is deeper and richer than themselves.
Now this is not to say that all young people like traditional expressions, nor that older people all like casual expressions of liturgy. And the existence of a variety of expressions need not be a serious point of contention. It seems to me that young people would be perfectly satisfied if they would only be allowed to continue growing in their faith in the way that seems best to them. But they are not.
Because older people will not let them.
A number of memes illustrate some of the frustration that young people feel when trying to make their needs known. This older one plays on the parental intervention that would happen when a child is found to be using some sort of contraband.
I think that the Church should make a commitment to meet young people where they really are, instead of what often seems to go on: We meet young people where we would like them to be.
There’s a nice story about Walker Percy’s conversion to Catholicism. When he was in college, one of his fraternity brothers, who was otherwise a perfectly normal fraternity brother, used to wake up at the crack of dawn to go to daily Mass. This is the kind of witness that awakes the imagination: the beauty of a committed Catholic life in the midst of the world, like a small but authentic amount of leaven. It is fascinating and compelling and changes minds and hearts.
There’s also an odd statistic that came out a few years ago. One out of six young converts to Christianity attributes that conversion to a visit to a church building. The researchers were astonished.
I think if we really, really listen to the hopes young people have for the Church we would be astonished as well, in a happy way that leads to renewal for us all.
In a way, Eastertide is more difficult than Lent. Fasting for 40 days is not too difficult. Rejoicing for 50 days is pretty strenuous by comparison.
In many parishes the Easter alleluias died out weeks ago. The lilies were gone as soon as the first petals dropped.
Meanwhile the Church in the United States continues what seems to be an endless cycle of exposure of corruption, day after disheartening day, like a tooth whose abscesses periodically drain, leaving the rot that remains deeply rooted festering, with no dentists anywhere in sight.
Under these circumstances, it can seem difficult to keep the Alleluia going throughout all the days of Easter. Although these days are quickly coming to their fulfillment in Pentecost, the liturgy keeps the celebration going with great feasts in the following weeks, as though reluctant to bring out the green vestments of Ordinary time for Sundays right away.
Thankfully, Saint Augustine has encouraging words for the Church in every age, in every circumstance of trial. The liturgy places them in the Office of Readings on Saturday of the 34th week in Ordinary time, the final day of the liturgical year, as if to say, “Next year, in the new year, we will try better to remember to rejoice in God.”
Let us sing alleluia to the good God who delivers us from evil
Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security. Why do we now live in anxiety? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when I read: Is not man’s life on earth a time of trial? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when the words still ring in my ears: Watch and pray that you will not be put to the test? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when there are so many temptations here below that prayer itself reminds us of them, when we say: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us? Every day we make our petitions, every day we sin. Do you want me to feel secure when I am daily asking pardon for my sins, and requesting help in time of trial? Because of my past sins I pray: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and then, because of the perils still before me, I immediately go on to add: Lead us not into temptation. How can all be well with people who are crying out with me: Deliver us from evil? And yet, brothers, while we are still in the midst of this evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God who delivers us from evil.
Even here amidst trials and temptations let us, let all men, sing alleluia. God is faithful, says holy Scripture, and he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. So let us sing alleluia, even here on earth. Man is still a debtor, but God is faithful. Scripture does not say that he will not allow you to be tried, but that he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. Whatever the trial, he will see you through it safely, and so enable you to endure. You have entered upon a time of trial but you will come to no harm—God’s help will bring you through it safely. You are like a piece of pottery, shaped by instruction, fired by tribulation. When you are put into the oven therefore, keep your thoughts on the time when you will be taken out again; for God is faithful, and he will guard both your going in and your coming out.
But in the next life, when this body of ours has become immortal and incorruptible, then all trials will be over. Your body is indeed dead, and why? Because of sin. Nevertheless, your spirit lives, because you have been justified. Are we to leave our dead bodies behind then? By no means. Listen to the words of holy Scripture: If the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells within you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your own mortal bodies. At present your body receives its life from the soul, but then it will receive it from the Spirit.
O the happiness of the heavenly alleluia, sung in security, in fear of no adversity! We shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God’s praises are sung both there and here, but here they are sung by those destined to die, there, by those destined to live for ever; here they are sung in hope, there, in hope’s fulfillment; here they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country.
So, then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going. What do I mean by keep going? Keep on making progress. This progress, however, must be in virtue; for there are some, the Apostle warns, whose only progress is in vice. If you make progress, you will be continuing your journey, but be sure that your progress is in virtue, true faith and right living. Sing then, but keep going.
Aurora lucis rutilat
Paschal time, Lauds, my trans.
The light of dawn is reddening,
The heavens’ morning praises spring,
The earth exults: “The morning! Hail!”
While hell’s sad dwellers groan and wail.
Our King, the victor in the strife,
When death was smashed apart by life,
Has trampled hell triumphantly
And captive led captivity.
The Lord, whose barricade of stone
The soldiers kept sharp eyes upon
In vict’ry conquers through that gate
And rises forth in pomp and state.
“The Lord is risen from the dead!”
The splendid angel loudly said.
And hell is evermore left free
To grumble in its misery.
Be this our thought through all life’s days,
Our Easter joy, our Paschal praise:
The grace in which we are reborn
Was won in triumph on that morn.
Jesus, to You let glory rise,
Who vanquished death and won the prize;
With Father and the Spirit blest,
Be endless ages’ praise addressed.
Thank you, Ben Whitworth.
Thank you, David Hughes.
Very few of the hymns in common use employ irony, in the sacred way that St. John’s Gospel does. The poems of the martyr St. Robert Southwell, when set to music, are a happy exception that is slowly gaining traction. The beautiful I Sought the Lord, about the mystery of prevenient grace, is another. Another exception very appropriate for this week is My Song Is Love Unknown. This excellent rendering leaves out one poignant verse, given here, which recalls the Reproaches–although in Gospel terms..
The whole hymn is worth long reflection.
Why, what hath my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run, He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.
May the worship and sacrifices of this sacred time bear fruit in the life of the Church.
If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.
If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.
-St. Gregory Nazianzen