December 7th-Achbishop B. O’Brien; Solemnity of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception

Homily by Archbishop Brendan O’Brien

Immaculate Conception Mass 2018 

The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a feast which reminds us of many important aspects of the Christian life.  We see this in the readings which the Church designates for this liturgy.

If we turn to our first reading from the Book of Genesis, we see that it is a story about mistrust.  In the verses immediately preceding the reading, the serpent sows the seeds of doubt when it tells the woman that the reason God doesn’t want them to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden is not to protect them from death, but, rather, to ensure that they will not become like God, knowing what is good and what is evil.  The serpent seeks to undermine the reasons for trusting in God, suggesting that God is not acting in the best interests of our first parents.

In contrast to the story of mistrust that we find in Genesis is the Gospel scene of the Annunciation, where we have Mary’s ‘fiat’, “Here am I; let it be done according to your word.”  This is a supreme expression of trust, the antithesis of the Genesis account.  As the passage indicates, Mary is perplexed by the angel’s greeting; she questions, “how can this be?”, and yet she trusts.  And her trust is based on her understanding of God’s consistent action in the past, and the goodness and benevolence which he has shown to Israel.  Mary is part of the anawim, the faithful remnant, the ‘poor ones’ who, despite Israel’s turbulent history, remained faithful to God.  Mary knew that her trust was not misplaced, because she was aware of the great deeds that God had done in the past, which she proclaims in the ‘Magnificat’.

Mary is often spoken of as the ‘perfect disciple’; that is to say, the model of one who is open and attentive to what God is asking of her, and, even though she doesn’t know where all this will lead, she doesn’t doubt – she trusts.  Because of Mary’s trust, she was able to positively respond to the divine plan for her to be the Mother of God and was preserved from original sin through the merits of Christ.

There may be a great difference between Mary and us in the wholeheartedness of her acceptance and our often hesitant response.  But the difference between Mary and us is not that she was chosen and we are not.  We, too, are chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before him in love, as the second reading from St. Paul reminds us.  Unlike Mary, we were not preserved from original sin.  However, through the gift of baptism and all the other gifts of grace that God gives us through His Church, we have the possibility of being redeemed from our sins.

By that same sacrifice of Christ which preserved Mary from sin, we have the possibility of being cleansed of our sins and delivered from all our faults so as to be holy and blameless before God in love.  In the words of Pope Francis, all of us are called to holiness.

“Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect.” (10)

For example, he says, are you married?  Be holy by caring for your husband or wife (as Christ does for the Church).  Do you work for a living?  Be holy by working with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent?  Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones to follow Jesus.  Are you in a position of authority?  Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.(14)  So each of us has this call to holiness, which we need to discern and respond to, as did Mary, “wherever we find ourselves”.

In the ordination to the Permanent Diaconate, which we celebrate tonight, we see how a vocation to the ordained ministry has a certain parallel with Mary’s experience of being ‘chosen’, in the sense that ordained ministry is not something that we simply decide to do someday; it is not a service that we take upon ourselves to render.  Like any vocation, there is always that dimension of being ‘called’ and being ‘sent’.  Our role is to not let that call pass us by, but to be attentive to what God is asking of us.

As we know, diakonia, or service, is the responsibility of the whole Church, of all the baptized.  For, by baptism, we are integrated into the Body of Christ and united to Christ, our head, who made himself the servant of all.  However, the deacon, in a very public and visible way, symbolizes this call to service which all are to exercise in the Church.  The diaconate is not to monopolize the call to service, but, instead, to model it and to promote this sense of service throughout the Christian community.

Through ordination, these candidates for the diaconate will be configured to Christ in his servant role.  You will be entrusted with the responsibility of being a living sign of Christ, the servant, calling the whole Christian people to service.

As deacons, you make this aspect of service sacramentally present before our eyes.  You remind us of this each time that we see the deacon’s stole draped over your shoulder, a visible sign to us of your dedication to serve, and of our call to service.  As a symbolic representation of the ‘towel’ used by Christ when washing the feet of the disciples, it reminds us of those words of St. John’s Gospel, “I have set an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (Jn 15:15)

In this service which you will offer to the Church as a deacon, there are three interrelated areas.  As a deacon, you are charged with preaching the word of God; and, thus, in the ordination rite, you will be presented with the Book of the Gospels and given the admonition to “believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you preach.”



As a deacon, you are also called to the service of the altar, as were the Levites of the Old Testament.  You are to assist the presider at the Eucharist and carry out other liturgical functions.  This is recognized in the ordination rite by your investiture with the stole and dalmatic, the vestments proper to the deacon.



And, as I have mentioned, the deacon has a special responsibility to care for – and lead others to care for – the hurting and needy of the world, in imitation of Christ and his compassion for those to whom he ministered.


One bishop described the ministry of a deacon as being “like a bridge”, linking service at the altar with service to the needy of the world.  It will be your privilege at the end of the Mass to send forth the People of God into the world to glorify the Lord by their lives.


It is my joy tonight to receive the commitment of these four men to respond to God’s call and to confer on them the grace of ordination.  You and your spouses and families have been preparing for this day over the last few years, and I thank you for the sacrifices you have made in order to serve the Church in this ministry.


I hope that all of you who are taking part in this celebration will be encouraged to see God’s call in your own lives and to respond according to the grace and gifts which you have been given.





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.

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.
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.