December 22, 2019

Disclaimer:

Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  Thus, in posting this homily on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.

God bless you.

Father Shawn

 

I love Nativity Scenes. One of my favourite places in the cathedral this time of year is the Nativity Chapel in the vestibule…Over in the rectory there  is a Nativity Scene in almost every room on the first floor…Pope Francis wrote a letter at the beginning of  this December encouraging all of us to keep up the wonderful tradition of having Nativity Scenes in our homes, our  schools, our places of work, even in hospitals, prisons and town squares.  The Holy Father said that as we contemplate the Christmas story depicted in the Manger scene “we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of God, who became man in order to encounter every single one of us.  So great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.” (Admirabile Signum #1)  In the simple form of the Nativity Scene the greatest event of history is depicted with utmost simplicity.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first Nativity Scene in Creccio (Gah-wretch-ee-oe), Italy in 1223 A.D.   St. Francis came from a very wealthy merchant family.  But as a young man, he learned the search for fulfillment in the things of this world always comes up short.  He came to realize that it is only Jesus Christ, who can fulfill the human heart.

St. Francis wanted “to bring to life the memory of that babe born in Bethlehem…(Pope Francis #2) It was very much like our  pageant…staged with live actors and live animals, not puppets, in a cave.  St. Francis wanted to contemplate the poverty and humility of God laid in a bed of hay. …We are told that all those who were there that Christmas night in 1223, experienced a new and indescribable Joy in the presence of the Christmas Scene.  Then a priest who was present solemnly celebrated the Holy Eucharist, celebrated Mass, over the manger, showing the bond between the Son of God, taking on our nature, and the Eucharist.  Laid in a manger where animals feed, He would become our food, the bread come down from heaven, which we will receive in this celebration of Mass.

Pope Francis asks…Why does the Christmas Creche, the Manger scene, arouse such wonder and move us so deeply…even today?  First, he says, because it shows God’s tender love: the Creator of the universe lowered himself to take up our littleness. (#3)

“God became human.  This is the central claim of Christianity…This is what we gather to celebrate tonight —still startling after two thousand years— God became human. The creator of the cosmos, who transcends any definition or concept, took to himself a nature like ours, becoming one of us. Christianity asserts that the infinite and the finite met…in Jesus Christ… that the eternal and the temporal embrace…in Jesus Christ, and…in Jesus Christ the fashioner of the galaxies and planets became a baby too weak even to raise his head …and as if continuing a joke…this incarnation, this taking on human nature,  of God was first made manifest not in Rome, Athens, or Babylon, not in any great cultural or political capital, but in Bethlehem of Judea, a tiny backwater outpost in the corner of the Roman Empire.

One might laugh derisively at this joke—as many have over the centuries—but, as G.K. Chesterton observed, the heart of even the most skeptical person is changed simply for having heard this message.

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II referred to this mysterious truth as “The Law of the Gift.”  In becoming one of us in the Babe in Bethlehem depicted in our Nativity Scenes…God laid aside His Divinity…and modelled for us “The Law of the Gift”  What is this Law?  “we cannot fully find ourself except through a sincere gift of ourself.” (Gaudium et Spes #24) I know this sounds to be counterintuitive, but it strikes a deep cord of truth within in the heart of every human person.  “We cannot fully find ourself except through a sincere gift of ourself.” The Law of the Gift is not self focussed, but other focussed.

“One receives one’s life precisely when one offers it as a gift.” Those of you who are married…. those of you who are parents live this…know it intuitively…A marriage…a family…is only as happy…as when you make a sincere gift of yourself to the other…to your spouse…to your children…… and is only as unhappy as when we fail to do this.  Curving in on ourselves…self-focussed not other focussed.

Pope Francis echoes his two predecessors.  He says contemplating the Nativity Scene invites us to “feel” and “touch” the poverty that God’s Son took upon himself in the Incarnation, in taking on Human Nature.  Implicitly, it summons us to follow him along the path of humility, poverty and self-denial that leads from the manger of Bethlehem to the Cross.” The Pope says it asks us to meet him and serve him by showing mercy to those of our brothers and sisters in greatest need.”  Contemplating the Nativity Seed spurs us on to action:  Feeding the hungry, Giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick and visiting those imprisoned.

The spirituality of  Christmas, of Nativity scenes, is one of seeking, of looking.  This is part of the goal of Christmas when we contemplate Him in the Manager. . How are we actively looking for Jesus Christ? And what are the things that get in our way of seeing who he is and seeking Him first in our lives…, his kingdom, his righteousness.

We need to set out to contemplate Him…to adore Him…Gazing on the manger, listening to the Scriptures, tonight we realize He is the only one we really  need.  There is no journey so great as that of seeking Christ.  There is no journey so great as that of looking for Christ.  No path is worth following if it doesn’t lead to Christ.

Today our Saviour is born.   Nobody should feel excluded from sharing in such joy.  Our reason for rejoicing is common to all.  Our Lord has come to free us all.  For the Son, in the fullness of time has assumed our human nature in order to reconcile the human race with its Creator.   Love has come into the world.  Those who seek for love now know where to find it.  It is essentially love that each of us needs  – even those who claim to be already fully satisfied.

This night…As we contemplate the manger scene and what it represents…let us thank God for having wanted to come to us so that we can understand him and love him…And…allow Him to love us.

At home, here in the cathedral…pause for a moment before the Nativity Set and open your heart to the Lord in prayer in words similar to these….

Let us pray:

God our Heavenly Father,

from the moment of creation

you have never ceased showing your love for us.

Even when we turned away from you,

you did not abandon us to the darkness of sin and death.

Indeed, it was when our need was greatest that you sent us a Redeemer your Son, Jesus,

to be born of the Virgin Mary.

Bless us as we look upon this manger.

May it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus and

raise our minds to contemplate the awesome mystery of

God made flesh.

Let this holy season fill us with hope that we might join

Him in the eternal Kingdom of peace in heaven.

Through Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives

and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen

 



The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.
PROCEDURAL NORMS FOR
THE NEXT FEW WEEKS

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Brevity
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.