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Summary: Everything we do in our worship is an action of the Holy Spirit in us, inspiring us to grateful response to the gift of God.

Sunday After Ascension 2014

Extraordinary Form

A reading from the First Letter of the Apostle Peter: The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers. 8 Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. 10 As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. John: when the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them.

You are very tired. You fell overboard and nobody was around to rescue you. Your life preserver gave out after a short time and you used your last bit of energy trying to stay afloat. You went under twice and only your last reserves of adrenaline pushed you up for a quick gasp of air before you went under. There’s nothing left, only the last inhalation that will fill your lungs with water, and then. . .

You’re above water. Your rescuer has reached down and lifted you up with a mighty yank, and you are breathing pure air again, on dry land. Coughing, you try to orient yourself to your new state–saved, alive, and you look into the face of your rescuer with gratitude. He objects that anyone else would have done the same, but you know that nobody else could have done what he did. Only he knew, and only he acted. You will never forget that action by one who risked his own life to save yours. How often would you call him up and thank him? Send him notes to commemorate the anniversary? Hold him in perpetual esteem and tell others about his deed?

But each of us is in that situation right now. We may not be much aware of it, but Jesus Christ risked His life–nay, gave up His life–in order to rescue us from drowning. We were drowning in sin. Maybe it was a sexual addiction, or a habit of pornography, gossip, angry outbursts, lying to a spouse or parents, even abuse of others. Whatever it was, or is, Jesus Christ saved us, or wants to save us, from drowning in that evil. Without being asked, without our even deserving it, He is raising us up to new life. And more than that, He is outfitting us for life in the happy companionship of the Blessed Trinity. What do we not owe Him? And yet, the only repayment He requires is to love God and our neighbor, act justly, and walk humbly with Him in this life. Moreover, He even gives us the grace, the energy, and the will power to do those things. When we do good, it is Jesus Christ acting in us.

There is one thing that the Extraordinary Form, the Traditional Mass, does very well. Yes, I know it has a more reverent feel, and it also symbolizes our union with the whole Church through its use of Latin. But what the 1962 form does really well is remind us that the Eucharist is a gift, an action, not of our own doing, but of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Let’s not contrast it with the Ordinary Form, which when done according to the directives of the Church is reverent and beautiful too. Let’s contrast it with Protestant worship. The big congregations do worship very well. They do big choirs and big pipeorgans or big bands and big preachers. But worship is, by and large, what they do for God and for each other. The Mass is an eternal act that Jesus Christ does for us and in us. It is a sacrifice that none of us is capable or worthy of doing. It is an action called a sacrifice of praise that can only be offered by Jesus Christ, acting through the ordained priest. It is the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, and Advisor and yes, even divine Lawyer, who speaks through the Holy Scriptures. Even the words of the musical offerings are the words of the Divine Author: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? Alleluia, I will not leave you orphans, and I shall come to you and you shall rejoice in your heart.

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