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EPISODE #15
SOUNDS FROM THE SANCTUARY: AN EPISODE FOR SPRINGTIME

Episode No. 15: An Episode for Springtime

Springtime is a time of celebration – the end of the Academic year, the choral year, graduations, and a whole variety of important Solemnities including Pentecost, the “birthday” of the Church. In this Episode we listen to the music of Spring – from the Classical hits to the ancient chants of the church to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance played by Paul Jacobs, the beloved tune heard all around the world at graduation ceremonies. Enjoy the refreshing and renewing music of the springtime!

THE EASTERTIDE SEASON

Liturgically the seven weeks beginning with the Easter vigil and extending to Pentecost Sunday – celebrated this year on June 9 – are known as the Easter season. 

Many sacraments are celebrated during this time, from First Holy Communion for youngsters to the Holy Spirit welcoming teenagers to adulthood in Confirmation, so people sometimes call this period the ‘season of sacraments.’ 

“In all this flurry of activity we are reminded of our own reception of the sacraments,” says Katie Dawson, director of the Office of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange. “It is good to focus on what we’re really doing here – this is a time that stresses the important recognition of how God breaks through into our lives – rather than accepting it as just a good excuse for a party.” 

 

Be open to God’s love 

Dawson is quick to acknowledge that we live in a material world full of distractions. We can become busy with so many activities that we are largely unaware of how greatly God loves us.  

“One of the aspects of the sacraments we often mention is grace,” she notes. “Grace helps us understand that God is working in our lives in a particular way.” Grace, from Latin, is defined as ‘the pure gift of love.’ 

“We must seek moments of opportunity to encounter Him to recognize His love for us, especially in the times when Jesus is uniquely ours,” she says. “Saint Thomas Aquinas said that grace will only affect us to the degree we are properly disposed to receive it.” 

The saint’s description helps us understand why some Catholics can attend Sunday Mass week in and week out and not especially change while, when we truly open ourselves to God’s grace, we allow the possibility of real transformation. 

 

Experience the joy of the sacraments 

In Matthew 7:7, Dawson notes, the disciple writes that if we knock, the door shall be opened and if we seek, we shall find. “The funny thing is,” she says, “God gives us grace whenever we ask for it. If we especially ask God for the grace to return to Him or the grace to restore our relationship with Him or improve our relationships with others, He grants it.” 

As we witness our young children receive the Eucharist for the first time, we experience their joy. “They are joyful about receiving Jesus,” she says. “Their excitement reminds us to be attentive, to make the space in our lives to prepare to receive Him.” 

Rather than racing around to get to Mass at the last second, Dawson advises that we prepare to arrive at Sunday services early enough to ask God to prepare us to be changed.  

 

Become who God intends you to be 

“We are supposed to become what we receive – that’s the whole point of the Eucharist,” she explains. “We must ask God to help us be prepared to welcome Him into ourselves. We must become transformed, to become Jesus and His presence in the world.” 

Fathers of the early Church spoke about being ‘divinized’ by the Holy Eucharist, Dawson notes. “We are made like God in receiving the Eucharist,” she adds. “It’s a huge responsibility, and yet we just go to communion so casually.” 

Saint Catherine of Siena, who ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Catholic Church, said that if we are what God intends us to be, we will set the world on fire, Dawson says. Eastertide, or the 50 days of Easter, is a great time to devote more prayer and thought to who God intends us each to be. 

 

Consider praying a divine mercy chaplet 

Writing on catholiccompany.com, Gretchen Fitz – a lay Dominican and writer – says the beautiful, simple prayers of the novena to the Holy Spirit are a powerful way to foster a devotion to the Holy Spirit this Eastertide. 

“This is also the time of year when catechumens are baptized and received as new Christians into the Church,” Fitz writes. “Renew your own baptismal promises by bringing holy water into your home and using it regularly.” 

The second Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, Fitz says, so the Divine Mercy devotion is tied in a special way to the Easter season. The message of Divine Mercy is threefold. It teaches Catholics to pray for Jesus’ mercy, to be merciful, and to completely trust in Jesus.  

The chaplet of Divine Mercy is traditionally prayed on Fridays and at 3 p.m., the hour in which Jesus perished on the cross. You can find a guide to praying the Divine Mercy chaplet at catholiccompany.com/content/How-to-Pray-the-Divine-Mercy-Chaplet.cfm. 

 

Welcome spring in Eastertide 

Spring and the Resurrection go together, Fitz writes. “Fill your house with the lovely fragrance of freshly cut flowers,” she recommends.  

“Keep a beautiful bouquet in the kitchen, on the dining room table, and in each bedroom in honor of the Resurrection of Jesus and a sign of hope in our own resurrection. Give flowers to your loved ones to grace their homes as well in honor of the Easter solemnity.”

BISHOP VANN’S EASTER MESSAGE

With these words from the pages of Sacred Scripture in front of us, we once more celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord! Although we use the English word “Easter,” this is an Anglo Saxon word which refers to Spring! A much more accurate way of referring to this great truth of our Faith – which we profess our belief in each Sunday in the Creed– we can turn to the word “Pasqua” or “Pascua,” which is found in what were historically Catholic countries. The word clearly reflects the “Paschal Mystery” which is the reality of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate at this time of the year. 

It is worthwhile remembering as well that the season of the Resurrection of the Lord is an entire season of 50 days leading up to Pentecost (the birthday of the Church), not just one day. The genius of the Church’s Liturgical Calendar is that we are given actual days and seasons to live and celebrate each day the truth, beauty and mystery of our Faith. 

In this questioning age in which we live, it is vital to go back to St. Paul – a witness to the Risen Lord – when he says that, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) Sadly, the power of the message of the Risen Lord has been diluted at times in our age by an overuse or misuse of what I could call “the historical critical method” in Biblical studies. That is why it is vital to return to St. Paul in this season. I would also turn today to the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his series “Jesus of Nazareth.” In his reflections on the Resurrection in this work he says on pages 276 and 278: 

“It is part of the mystery of God that he acts so gently, that he gradually builds up his history within the great history of mankind; that he becomes man and so can be overlooked by contemporaries and by the decisive forces within history; that he suffers and dies and that, having risen again, he chooses to come to mankind and only through the faith of the disciples to whom he reveals himself; that he continues to knock gently at the doors of our hearts and slowly opens our eyes if we open our doors to him. 

And yet –is not this the truly divine way? Not to overwhelm with external power, but to give freedom, to offer and elicit love. And if we really think about it, is it not what seems so small that is truly great? Does not a ray of light issue from Jesus, growing brighter across the centuries, that could not come from any mere man and through which the light of God truly shines in the world? Could the apostolic preaching have found faith and built up a worldwide community unless the power of truth had been at work within it? 

If we attend to the witnesses with listening hearts and open ourselves to the signs by which the Lord again and again authenticates both them and himself, then we know that he is truly risen. He is alive. Let us entrust ourselves to him, knowing that we are on the right path. With Thomas let us place our hands into Jesus’ pierced side and confess: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). 

A very blessed season of the Resurrection of the Lord to all, and thank you especially for all who have assisted in the many events and celebrations of Faith. A special welcome and blessing to all who have been baptized and received into the Church in this holy season. He is Risen as He said! ALLELUIA!

SPRING FORTH IN FAITH

Spring in Southern California is subtle, but we can sense it in the greening of front lawns and the budding of leaves in parkways. There’s a freshness in the air, an anticipation of sunny skies and warmer temperatures.

Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday is a forceful reminder that spring is the season of renewal, rebirth and recommitment to our faith, our families and our spiritual future. As described in a recent OCC feature, “Roots of Religion” published Feb. 27, even our gardens can transport and transform us – if we open ourselves up to enjoy them. Getting our hands dirty toiling in own backyards, or working in the soil of our potted plants or community gardens, we experience firsthand the cyclical nature of our lives through the growth of seeds, flowers and fruit trees.

Just as Jesus inspired hope by walking out of the rocky tomb, so can spring fill us with renewed strength to continue our journeys in faith. Gardening aficionados know that it takes conscious effort to cultivate a garden and likewise it requires patient commitment to nurture our faith.

For many, the faith journey doesn’t move along an incline or even a straight pathway – it takes a few detours into blind alleys, through dark tunnels and around hairpin turns. Navigating the journey without a roadmap or a GPS we often stumble. And perhaps that is the point, after all; faith in what we cannot see or touch requires belief in that which is beyond knowing. It requires us to praise Him for His blessings and listening to His voice in the silence of our hearts.

Experiencing the sprouting of little green seedlings into life visibly reminds us each spring of His covenant to keep us in the palm of His hand; it confirms that He loves us more deeply than the birds of the sky.

In the springtime spirit, Scripture can inspire our appreciation of God’s natural wonders as in the Song of Solomon 2:11-12:

See! The winter is past;

   the rains are over and gone.

Flowers appear on the earth;

   the season of singing has come,

the cooing of doves

   is heard in our land.