Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Holy Sepulchre

I found this interesting cross section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with a depiction of what was there during the time of Christ and how the Church was constructed (early 4th Century) to incorporate both the tomb and Golgatha. 

It was interesting to see that an intact tomb (called the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea) is still present at the rear of the Church.  This tomb was all hewn out of the rock with both an outer and inner chambers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Unrest is Now Personal

For years we have heard about the unrest in the Holy Land and how it affects the people who live there.  Of course it is something that we know is real but it is difficult to become emotionally attached to the issues.

That changed with the trip to Israel and the West Bank.  We met people; we made friends; we now care about their lives.  One of our favorite people was the driver of our bus.  A Palestinian, living in the West Bank, who struggles to make a life for a family he dearly loves.  In Bethany, we met his little girl and saw the love he has for her.  All he wants is peace and the ability to have a secure future.  They deserve it.

Please pray for peace in the Holy Land.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Tomb of Christ, Church of Holy Sepulchre
The trip to the Holy Land was literally like being thrown into the deep end when learning to swim.  I experienced things that I never dreamed would be possible in my life much less within a week of ordination.  The first news was that, as a deacon, I would be assisting at Mass with a Bishop from Louisiana who was also on the pilgrimage.  Fortunately, my deacon mentor was on the trip with us so he was able to help out with my questions on assisting the Bishop.  

One of the great memories was serving at Mass at the Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The church is shared by the Latin, Orthodox and Armenian Churches.  As such, there is a specific rotation on who is in control of the Tomb and when.  The day before we got to Jerusalem, we were told that our group would celebrate a High Mass at the Tomb of Christ at 6:30am.  Needless to say I did not sleep very well that night.

Once we got to the Church we were lead to the sacristy where we met with the Franciscan who would act as Master of Ceremonies (MC).  Since there were two deacons, I was to be the deacon of the Word.  The Mass included our group and the Franciscans who live at the Church.  The Liturgy of the Word was completed just outside of the Tomb and the Liturgy of the Eucharist was celebrated on the altar inside of the Tomb over the place where Christ was laid in the Tomb.

The Liturgy of the Word was beautiful and after the proclamation of the Gospel, I glanced over to my wife, who had tears in her eyes.  It was a very emotional moment.

Once this was completed, I was told to remain outside of the tomb while the Bishop and my deacon mentor went into the Tomb to prepare for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  At that point, I thought that I would remain where I was for the remainder of Mass.  However, they soon returned and the MC asked that I incense the clergy and the laity in the congregation.  Once that was finished, he asked us to follow him into the Tomb.

Before I knew it, I was inside the Tomb with the Bishop and my deacon mentor (there is really only room for 3 people).  Much of the liturgy now is a bit fuzzy because I was so overwhelmed by where I was and what I was experiencing.  To be present at the consecration immediately above where Jesus laid and where the resurrection occurred was beyond belief.  During communion, the Bishop left to distribute to those outside the Tomb so my deacon mentor and I were left alone in the Tomb.  It was a wonderful 5 minutes of relishing the experience.  

Soon, we were back outside of the Tomb for the conclusion of Mass.

This experience, of course, was one of the high points of our trip.  I am still amazed that it happened.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Home From Pilgrimage

Karen and I returned from our pilgrimage to the Holy Land yesterday afternoon.  I am still trying to process the trip because it was filled with so many moments.  From the initial stress of serving with a bishop so soon after ordination to the awe of being the deacon of the Word for a High Mass at the Tomb of our Lord in Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it was an unbelievable experience.

Once I recover from the jet lag, I hope to post some reflections on the trip.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Three Days and Counting

Today is probably the last day that it will be relatively quiet (at least from a "ordination" standpoint).  As usual, work is very busy, which always happens when you need to get away for a while. 

But tomorrow it really begins to pick up.  First, family will begin to arrive in the early afternoon.  Soon thereafter, Karen and I will go to the Cathedral for the ordination practice.   It will be surreal not to be getting briefed on the duties as an usher for the Mass (my job for the last few years) and actually getting ready for our own ordination.  After practice, we head home to meet up with extended family for dinner. 

Hopefully I will be able to get all of my work done at the office on Friday because the remainder of family and out of town friends begin to arrive Friday afternoon.  We will be having a small gathering at the house for dinner but hopefully it will not go very late.

Saturday morning we are to be at the Cathedral by 8:30.  The service begins at 10:30.    From there it just gets busy: from the open house, the Mass of thanksgiving on Sunday morning, a parish reception and another Mass in the evening. 

On Monday, I may need to go back into the office to finish off the last few bits of work.

On Tuesday, it is off to Israel where we will spend 10 days on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Needless to say, it is an exciting time in our lives.  It is hard to think that it is finally here; that it is really happening.

So, thanks to all for reading this blog and I hope to get back to it after we return.

As an aside, I am thinking that I will need to change the name of the blog since I guess I will no longer be considered an "apprentice".  If anybody has any ideas for a good name,  just let me know.

God Bless  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

St Thomas More

St Thomas More by Hans Holbein

Today is the birthday of St Thomas More (he would have been 534 years old today:) 

I think St Thomas is a great example today, especially with our governments current assault on religious freedom in this country.  He teaches us that we must stand firm in our beliefs and defend our faith.

And this strength is most needed by our leaders.  Before his death, Francis Cardinal George of Chicago said that “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr.”  Will this prediction become a reality?  Will our leaders stand firm, like St Thomas More, come what may?

King Henry VIII certainly wanted to make the Church and its leaders bow to his will and St Thomas More lost his life for not compromising his conscience.  This is no different than what the curent administration is asking of our Bishops.

We need to pray for our Bishops; to give them wisdom and strength; to emulate St Thomas.

St Thomas More, pray for us.