Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Old & New

As we went for our walk with the Lord through the park and the heart of downtown Malone last night, I was really struck by something.  In the Gospel, we heard about two disciples on the road who could see anything but Jesus (despite how very, very close he'd come) and because of this, they nearly lost their way.  As I carried the Blessed Sacrament in procession, I couldn't see anything but Jesus (with the monstrance only inches from my nose) and because of this, had to trust completely that he was the Way.  Isn't this what it's all about: letting Jesus be our only guide?

   Forty Hours: Votive Mass of the Most Holy Eucharist   

Readings - Rev 1:5-8 / Ps 34:2-11 / 1 Cor 10:16-17 / Lk 24:13-35 

40 Hours.
The first time I heard anything about it
I was a “tween,“ as they say these days.
It was in this little black prayer book,
which was my mother’s during her childhood before it was mine.
(I’m so glad my mother 
was able to join us tonight.)
“Devotion of the Forty Hours,” it says
at the head of a few pages of prayers.
But I had no idea 
what happened during those 40 hours—
or why 40.

The next time I heard something about 40 Hours
was during my time in the seminary and first years as a priest.
My elder brothers in the priesthood
would speak nostalgically of the good ol’ days
when many priests would come together from far and wide
to take part in 40 Hours.
But the stories they shared
often had very little to do with anything that happened in church,
and much more to do with the card playing and carousing
that took place over in the rectory.
I’m so pleased that a number of my brother priests—
some of them with faces very familiar to you—
have joined us here tonight.
Welcome!  You honor us with your presence.
You should know that we did enjoy
a nice meal together earlier this evening…
…but I can assure there wasn’t too much carousing!

But the one who finally gave me a fuller picture
of what 40 Hours is all about is our own Fr. Tom,
who experienced it annually while in the seminary in Philadelphia.
As we began to make plans for the Year of Faith,
it was at the top of his list to suggestions.
And so here we all are, 40 hours later.
We’re indebted to you, Fr. Tom,
for inspiring these days of prayerful renewal.

Reviving this venerable tradition—
which hasn’t taken place in Malone
or anywhere in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, 
as best we know,
for at least 30 or 40 years—
has meant dusting off and polishing up
a whole bunch of stuff 
pulled from our sacristies and attics.
The more careful observers among you 
will have noted that different monstrances 
were used over the last three days:
Sunday from St. Joseph’s, 
Monday from St. John Bosco,
and today from St. Helen’s.
The monstrance we will use for tonight’s Procession
is from here at Notre Dame;
we have photos from 60 to 70 years ago
showing that very same vessel 
(and the same candelabras, too,)
used for Benediction 
out on the front steps of this church.
And the embroidered ombrellino
which will be held over the Blessed Sacrament
during the first steps of the Procession
has been graciously loaned to us
by St. Patrick’s Church in Hogansburg—
the “mother church” of Malone 
and of Catholic parishes all the way 
from Massena to Churubusco.

Many more than 40 hours 
have gone into the preparations
for these grace-filled days,
on the part of our staff, choirs, servers, and others;
to any and all who played a part:
our deepest thanks.

40 Hours.

For 40 hours those two disciples on the road to Emmaus
had been keeping quiet vigil over the Body of the Lord—
much as we have been in this church for three days—
40 hours being the traditional period of time Christ lay in the tomb.
And they concluded those 40 hours
by walking with the Risen Lord along the way,
by inviting him to their wayside table —
much as we are about to do.

Those two disciples spent 40 hours looking back, 
conversing about all the things that had occurred.
It had the potential to stop them in their tracks,
leaving them downcast;
instead, they found their hope restored.
We have spent these 40 hours
paging through the old books, reminiscing about the ol’ days,
dusting off the relics of years gone by
not as a lesson in history,
but because they hold promise for the future.
You see, for the Church,
Tradition isn’t about being old fashioned;
it holds the mysterious power to keep things novel and fresh—
and that’s because it comes to us from God,
who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end,
ever-ancient and ever-new.

Our 40 Hours are coming to an end,
but they are really only a beginning.
May we not be like those disciples on the way to Emmaus:
slow of heart to believe,
our eyes prevented from recognizing the Lord,
alive and present here in our midst.
Have we not felt our hearts burning within us?
Instead, let us set out at once and recount
to our families, our coworkers, our friends,
all that has taken place.
Jesus Christ is made known to us once more
in the breaking of bread!

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