Let Us Be Received…

Let Us Be Received…

In today’s first reading from the book of Daniel Azariah prays in the fiery furnace, asking God for mercy and praising his goodness. And. . . making a sort of spiritual communion?

“ We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.”

We have in our day no priests to offer sacrifice but let us be received as if we had all those rams and bullocks and lambs…. During the Babylonian captivity there was no Temple priesthood, no sacrifices were being offered to God in Jerusalem and even if they were Azariah and the others are in far away Babylon and would not be able to go up to the Temple to pray and offer sacrifice. And God’s people yearned to give Him proper worship.

Azariah recognizes, though, that lifting up his heart to God in supplication and praise and repentance is itself a sacrifice that God can choose to accept in place of the Temple worship. After all, God himself says repeatedly in the Old Testament that he wants loving hearts more than sacrifice, knowledge of his ways more than holocausts. He wants a sacrifice of praise and of mercy and of love. He wants hearts transformed, not dead animals. And so Azariah makes a spiritual offering, lifting up his voice, his thoughts, his heart to God, recorded in his beautiful canticle.

And what can we learn from Azariah? Although we are also cut off (by quarantine) from going into the presence of God in the sacrifice of the Mass, there is an important difference between his situation and ours. The difference between his situation and ours is is, today we know our priests are offering the sacrifice of the Mass on our behalf, even if we cannot be there physically to assist at the mass. But we can be there spiritually and even watch via livestream. So let us pray, like Azariah, that our sacrifice might be acceptable to God, that we can be truly present at the Mass in spirit even while we cannot be there in person.

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We livestreamed to the St Patrick’s Day Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sean at the Cathedral with different readings. The homily that was beautiful and focused on St Patrick and the current crisis. The Mass was really beautiful. They had a small choir and violin and I forget what else. Surreal to see Mass in the empty cathedral, though. So deeply weird.

The cardinal’s message was also about the need for drawing near to God and to each other in communion.

“As a people, a community, and a nation, we are being forced into a stance of social distancing to ward off potential health disaster. But even as we embrace the methodology of physical isolation, we must reject any stance of alienation and individualism.”

“We all need to be in a prayer mode now… May this strange lent that we’re living help us to overcome physical distance by growing closer to God and by strengthening our sense of solidarity and communion with each other.”

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In his homily the rector of the cathedral, who concelebrated Mass with the cardinal emphasized:

The question to ask is not: “Is God talking to us in this crisis?: but “What is God saying to us?

1. We are not in control.
When we are united in Christ we are never alone.
Christ be with us.

2. We are all in this together.

In this time of crisis we can see people reaching out to each other, helping each other. We can witness Italians singing from their balconies. Crisis creates communities. We are not random individuals, but members of communities, even when we need to keep physical distance.

May Patrick’s love enflame us with love for our neighbors.

3. We are all responsible.

We are responsible not for the outbreak of the virus, but for how we respond to it and how we care for each other. There are people for whom famine, drought, war, and disease are a daily reality. This moment should awaken us to the blessings that are ours and our responsibility to those on the edge. Our own comfort and well being are not paramount. We are all responsible for each other.

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A priest in Northern Italy asked his parishioners to send him selfies and family pictures so he could tape them onto the pews to look at while he celebrated Mass:

” Standing in front of the altar, and looking at the absolutely empty benches, I feel the sadness that contradicts the joy of the liturgy I serve, contradicts the hope I proclaim, and contradicts the joy of the Easter that I wait.

I am convinced that we are connected now in faith, but my eyes see the void.

At this time, I would like to make you an offer: send me your photos, both personal and family, pictures of your faces, I need to see you in front of me when I celebrate Mass next Sunday…”

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The Breastplate of St Patrick (aka The Deer’s Cry)

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension
Through the strength of his decent for the Judgement of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim
In obedience to the Angels,
In the service of the Archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of Holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendor of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s host to secure me
against snares of devils
against temptations of vices
against inclinations of nature
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me and these evils
Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,

Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of Christ
May thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

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  • We made that same connection in the first reading: “there is no place…”. Our masses have now been canceled, and it’s a bereavement, though not as harsh a one as it might have been if I had not first seen other dioceses cancelling and so had a little time to adjust to the idea, as well as go to one last Sunday mass.

    • I think for us it was a relief, honestly. We didn’t want to choose not to go, but with asthmatic kids we also wanted to be as cautious as possible. I was really really on the fence about going on Sunday and having the choice taken from me was like having a parent to step in and make the hard call for me. I can understand the bereavement people are feeling, but my anxiety was soothed considerably. Now I don’t have to feel any guilt or second-guess myself.

  • I interacted with the readings via iBreviary. A little bit before Lent I ramped up to the practice of reading the daily Mass readings and trying a little meditation on it: I’ve discovered that a good pattern for me is (1) place self in presence of God, (2) read first reading, then Gospel, then (3) meditation/vocal prayer, then (4) back up to the Psalm and finish with it.

    Boy, that sense of there being no place really hits home, doesn’t it?

    • I’ve been doing the daily Mass readings with the kids every day for a while now. We just sort of read and discuss them. Not sure it’s very prayerful in the moment, but I sometimes come back to them later in the day in a more meditative way.