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Which Christ on cross?
Q. It is confusing to me that some Catholic churches feature a prominent crucifix, while others have a risen Christ on the cross. As a new Catholic, I have learned to appreciate the sacrifice Christ offered for me. Though I am also thankful for the Resurrection, it seems that during Mass, I should be thinking more of Christ’s sacrifice than his resurrection. Please comment.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Should you be thinking of Christ’s sacrifice or his resurrection during Mass? You should be thinking of both. Christ’s death on the cross was completed in the resurrection, and the resurrection makes no sense without the cross. The cross and resurrection are two inseparable aspects of the one mystery of faith.
The Mysteries of Faith that are provided for the people after the consecration bring together Christ’s death and resurrection. They are as follows: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again”; “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again”; “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.”
The best guide for what you should be thinking about during the liturgy of the Eucharist is the eucharistic prayer itself. If you follow the words of the priest and reflect on them, you will find that they take you through the whole life of Christ: his ministry, his death, his resurrection and his return in glory.
What kind of cross should be displayed in a church? While there may be a number of images of the cross on display, the principal cross — the one used in procession and recession and kept near or on the altar during Mass — should be a crucifix, that is, a cross with the image of Christ crucified.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “There is ... to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remains near the altar even outside liturgical celebrations” (No. 308).
In addition, can there also be images of the resurrection, including an image of a risen Christ on a cross? Of course. While images should not be overly duplicated, there are plenty of examples of historic churches in which Christ is presented both as crucified and risen.
As I said at the outset, the crucifixion and the resurrection are aspects of each other.
Q. Is it permissible to have a non-Catholic for a godparent? The reason I’m asking is that I am 61 years old and just realized my godmother of 61 years is a non-Catholic.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
We are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, which not only unites us with Christ but also with every other baptized Christian. Therefore, “the whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1255). The Church properly assigns primary responsibility for this care to parents, a charge to be shared by godparents. The Church’s Code of Canon Law specifies that godparents must be faithful Catholics, but adds that non-Catholic Christians may “witness” baptisms with “a Catholic sponsor” (see Canon 874).
A comment on the text observes, “It is not simply as a relative or friend of the one to be baptized … that the godparent has responsibility for the Christian upbringing of the recipient; in acting as the guarantor of the faith of the candidate, the godparent is also the representative of the community of faith.”
Could one have had a non-Catholic godparent 60 years ago? Godparents were certainly expected to be Catholic in the Church’s former (pre-1983) Code of Law, but pastors have undoubtedly admitted non-Catholics as godparents. Likewise, the term has often been given, in respect or fondness, to individuals who play special — though not sacramental — roles in our lives.
Q. What is the epiklesis? I know it has something to do with the act of consecration that takes place during Mass? And what role does the Holy Spirit have in all of that?
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The epiklesis (epiclesis) is part of the Eucharistic prayer at Mass and refers to the moment when the priest-celebrant calls upon the Holy Spirit in preparation for the consecration of the bread and the wine at Mass. It’s a Greek word, and it means “invocation,” or “calling upon.” The priest-celebrant calls upon the Holy Spirit to sanctify the gifts, thus forming an integral part of the Eucharistic prayer. You know the priest is praying the epiclesis when he holds his hands extended over the gifts, and not so much by the words he uses, because in each of the four Eucharistic prayers, the words are different. At the moment of the epiclesis, because it is an important moment, the server can ring the bell so everyone pays attention.
Let’s consider the epiclesis in the various Eucharistic Prayers.
The first Eucharistic prayer, or Roman Canon:
Be pleased, O God, we pray,
to bless, acknowledge,
and approve this offering in every respect;
make it spiritual and acceptable,
so that it may become for us
the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ.
The second Eucharistic prayer:
Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray,
by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall,
The third Eucharistic prayer:
Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you:
by the same Spirit graciously make holy
these gifts we have brought to you for consecration,
The fourth Eucharistic prayer:
Therefore, O Lord, we pray:
may this same Holy Spirit
graciously sanctify these offerings,
As to your question about the role of the Holy Spirit at Mass, it’s helpful to remember that the Mass is a Trinitarian action: the Son praising the Father with the Holy Spirit. Since the Church is the mystical body of Christ, during Mass each of us joins Christ in praising the Father with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, also known as the Sanctifier, not only sanctifies the bread and wine, but also sanctifies and makes each of us holy.
Why Did Jesus Use Parables?
Q. In the Gospels I count 30 or more separate parables Jesus used in His earthly ministry. Can you imagine why He seemed to favor this kind of instruction?
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
There are several possible reasons for Jesus’ frequent use of parables. A story catches our attention. Humans of all ages like to hear a story. A story is more easily remembered than a statement of principle, and is therefore an effective teaching device.
A deeper and probably more important reason is this: If taken seriously, the parables can lead us into self-examination. When I hear the story of the prodigal son, I tend to ask myself if I am in some sense also a prodigal son, or a self-righteous older brother. When I hear the story of the good Samaritan, I tend to ask myself about my sins of omission. When I hear or read about the Pharisee and the publican, I tend to examine myself for evidences of smug self-righteousness. Whatever else may be their purposes, I believe all the parables are aimed at inducing in the hearers and readers this kind of reaction.
Prayers of Sinners
Q. If a person is not in the state of grace and he prays for some reason or another to obtain help or such, does his prayers count? Or are the prayers for naught?
St. Thomas Aquinas observed in his Summa Theologiae that Masses offered by sinful priests have the same value as those offered by virtuous priests because the sacrifice is the same. So does the Divine Office prayed by an unworthy priest, because this is the prayer of the entire Church. However, St. Thomas notes, an individual’s virtue affects the value prayer, “and in this respect there can be no doubt … that the Mass of the better priest is more fruitful.”
This sounds, and is, quite serious, so we should bear it in mind when we’ve sinned, because sin strains all our relations with God, and reduces the value of our good works, including prayer. But we must remember two things. First, although we must avoid the superstitious folly of merely performing empty rituals, we do want our actions, including our prayers, to bear their greatest possible fruit. Therefore, if we know we have committed a serious sin, we should seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation as soon as possible. Second, while we may — and should — judge ourselves, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “We must entrust judgment of [others] … to the justice and mercy of God” (No. 1861).
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