The focus of the liturgy this week is life after death. This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of our faith. We teach that life does not end on physical death but we have limited comprehension of what will happen. I hope that this week's a little liturgy will prompt some fruitful discussions.
Summary of the Liturgy of the Word
Apocalypse 7:2-4, 9-14
John tells us about a vision he saw where the servants of God received a seal on their head so that they would be saved from the devastation to come. He says 144,000 people received the seal. Then he saw a great number of people from every nation standing in front of God and praising him. They were dressed in white robes and held palm branches. He also saw angels prostrating themselves (bowing down) in front of the throne of God and elders and "the four animals". One of the elders said to him that the people in white robes were those who "have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb."
Ps 23:1-6. R. Cf.v.6
Response: Such are the men who seek your face, O Lord.
(The Lord's is the earth and its fulness)
St John tells us that God must love us very much as he allows us to be called God's children. He says that our journey is not over but when it is we shall be like God. So for now we must try hard to be like Christ.
Come to me, all of you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
Because there was a big crowd, Jesus went up a hill to teach them. He says that people who are poor and disadvantaged either in physical ways on in spiritual ways will be blessed by God and receive their reward in heaven.
Some of the people he mentions are:
people who stand up for what is right
people who are mourning
people who show mercy to others.
This week the focus of the readings is on what will happen to us after this life. The writer of the Book of the Apocalypse (John) gives us a physical description of what he saw in a vision. It is a fairly traditional picture of what heaven might be like. Some of the elements present are familiar to us from Christian and Jewish tradition. e.g. people being marked to be saved, dressing in white robes and bowing down and waving palms. It is important to consider what lies behind these images. The main emphasis is on the praise of God by a great crowd. (note the white garments - think back to the wedding guest who did not have the appropriate garment - also the white symbolism associated with Baptism)
In the second reading, St John is much more vague. He says that when God chooses to reveal things to us "we shall see him as he really is".
As Christians, we believe that we enter a new life with God after death but it is very hard for our human minds to imagine what this might be like. Jesus spoke of "My Father's House". One way to try to understand what it might be like is to learn more about the Father by reading and thinking about scripture. We could also focus on what the next life with God might feel like rather than on what it might look like.
The Gospel is one of the most famous passages in Christian teaching. It shows Jesus reassuring those who suffer that they will have a reward in heaven. It is the basis of many of the Christian ideas that we believe today. This passage is often called "The Sermon on the Mount" and parts of it are sometimes called "The Beatitudes".
Activity during Mass
Listen for the phrases listed below at Mass today. They either mention Angels and Saints or refer to life after death. Tick them off when you hear them.
1) In the Confiteor (I confess...)
"blessed Mary ever Virgin, all the Angels and Saints and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God".
2) In the Creed
"I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come"
3) In today's preface (the part of the Mass that comes after the priest says "Lift up your hearts...")
"the great array of our brothers and sisters already gives you eternal praise"
"the glory bestowed upon those exalted members of the Church".
"and so we glorify you with the multitude of Saints and Angels"
List any names of particular saints that you hear in the liturgy:
You could also make a list of the types of qualities you think a saint should have. You might start with:
Other activities and useful resources
Use the clip below to bring today's Gospel to life. Consider what Jesus' words mean to us in our everyday life.
film of the Beatitudes on Youtube (includes image of man being whipped)
Look at the text of Eucharistic Prayer I in a missal. Read through the list of saints near the start. Pick two that you are not familiar with and research them.
This week's feast is also know by its Old English name of "All Hallows". Note that we use this word in the Our Father. It is also used today when we speak of Halloween (All Hallows' Eve) - the eve of All Saints.
Below is a sensible discussion of popular culture regarding Halloween - particularly last two paragraphs:
discussion of Christian approach to Halloween
Last Week's Question:
My Muslim friends pray several times a day at set times. Why don't Christians do the same?
Some Christians do follow set times for their prayers and many stick to the habit of praying in the morning and at night. Early Christian practices would have been closely linked to Jewish ways of praying and through the ages new traditions developed. Early religious orders had set patterns for their prayers: some monks, nuns and priests still follow these patterns and many lay people also pray in this way. You may hear of evening prayer (vespers) or morning prayer (lauds) at your church. This way of praying is known as praying "the Office" and the printed book for this is known as the breviary.
The usual names for these prayers at different times of the day are:
matins, lauds, sext, vespers, compline (dawn, morning, midday, evening, night)
A priest or member of a religious order prays the office every day. The prayers are made up of readings, psalms, hymns and some familiar prayers. Often people gather together to do this. Below is a link to a youtube clip from Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire:
click here to hear monks singing compline
Glenstal abbey in Ireland have introduced an App so that you can pray with the monks wherever you are.
more info here
Often different Christian churches have different routines. For example the Anglican Church often celebrates evensong on Sundays. Other traditions can depend on which country you live in. In Ireland there is a prayer called the "Angelus". It is said three times every day at 6am, midday and 6pm. People used to be called to prayer by the church bell. This is similar to the Muslim call to prayer which happens five times a day.
This week's question:
What language did Jesus and his apostles speak?
All the best for the week!