Saturday, August 6, 2011

Silver Rose Program

I was asked to lead a “Silver Rose” service by the Knights of Columbus at St. Mikes (You can read more about the Silver Rose Program here). The service included recitation of the rosary, Gospel reading, homily and the litanies to the Blessed Mother. Since this was a “one time thing” I preached “a capela” (without any notes). At the end my wife said that she really liked it. Since it was so short and it was so recent I remember pretty much what I said, so, here it is. The gospel reading was “The visitation”:
Since I only have a few minutes, today, I would like to reflect in just two words. The first one is a word that many of us have never heard: “Kecharitomene”, which is a Greek word. In fact this word is a made up word, it has not translation to other languages. Translators usually render it as “llena eres de gracia” in Spanish and in English as “Full of grace”. This was the actual word the Angel used to address Mary, the woman who was going to give of her flesh so that God could become incarnated. In Mary the mystery of the incarnation is fulfilled, a mystery so profound that even angels have no words to describe it. Now Kecharitomene is not gibberish, it is a word created from the combination of other words to give a sense of complete fullness not just at the moment but in the past, a fullness which remains in the present and will continue in the future. It is as if Gabriel is saying “You who God has made to represent the highest state of grace possible”. The Church tradition tells us that the blessed mother entered this state in the moment of her immaculate conception, she did not acquired her fullness of grace at some moment in her life, she was created by God pure, sinless and beautiful; full of grace from the first moment of her life. To gain some knowledge of this mysterious event we need to look at another word.

The second word I would like to mention today is not as uncommon as Kecharitomene but it is as mysterious, the word is “Transubstantiation”. This word was not created by an angel, but never the less it is also a made up word, Catholic Theologians use to describe that transformation of substance that happens when a Priest lays his hand upon bread and wine to transform it into the body, blood soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus, during the Holy Sacrifice of the mass. But what does this word mean? Let me take a minute to explain. In order to do this I will have to give you a brief metaphysics lesson. Objects, anything in the universe are composed of two types of properties: their substance and their accidents. Accidents are just the things from any object that we can perceive with our senses: size, color, smell that sort of thing. Substance on the other hand is what we perceive as the object itself, regardless of the accidents. For example, let’s say that you meet “Tom” an old friend, you have not seen since grade school, this person, their substance, their “Tomness” have not changed, Tom has always been Tom. He might be taller, heavier, with a beard but these are just accidents of the time that has passed between the time you last saw him and today, his substance however that which makes Tom who he is still the same.

With this in mind now it is easiest to explain what Transubstantiation is. In the case of Tom, of every object in the universe, their substance never changes only the accidents, in the case of the bread and wine in the Eucharist, the accidents do not change but the substance is transformed into the glorified resurrected body of our Lord Jesus, and we know this because of the witness of the Gospels and the unchanged teaching of the Church for two thousand years. Now why is this whole metaphysics stuff so important and relevant today? Because this teaching is at the core of the Church’s prolife stance. If Tom’s substance have not changed in all this years, that means that his “Tomness” extends all the way back in time to the moment in which one cell of his father and one cell of his mother merged to create a new cell, a cell who grew to become an embryo, a fetus, a baby, a child, a teen, and a grown man. Tom’s substance has never changed; in the moment of his conception he was not a bunch of cells with the potential to become Tom, he was Tom. From that moment on, the only thing that changed in Tom was his accidents, but his substance stayed the same. Just like Mary’s fullness of Grace, which she received at the moment of her conception.

Kecharitomene and transubstantiation are just made up words. They are an attempt to explain with human words mysteries of our faith which cannot be understood, by the mind but must be accepted by the soul. Furthermore they are the basic blocks in which our faith rests. We cannot say I believe in transubstantiation but I do not believe in the sanctity of life, or I believe in the Blessed mother but I belive in a woman's right to chose an abortion because what is aborted is not a baby. It does not work like that, if we accept one we have to accept the other one or we will find ourselves believing in a contradiction.

So as we continue praying today let’s ask the great Theotockos, the great Kecharitomene, Mary full of all graces to procure for us the graces we will all need in order to continue fighting for the sanctity of all human life, from conception until natural death. God bless you.