Sunday, July 17, 2005

MH - Giving Thanks

When I was a kid one of my favorite college basketball teams was St. Bonaventure. I don't know what appealed to me; perhaps it was the name, which to a nine-year-old Protestant would have seemed foreign and incomprehensible, or it might have been their Cinderella season, when Bob Lanier took them all the way to the Final Four (back when it really was a tournament, and not a month-long national gambling party).

Coincidentally, during those years of my childhood, the old Mass, the Tridentine, was being phased out; first changed from Latin to the vernacular, and then replaced all together by the Novus Ordo. I was oblivious to what was going on then, just as I had no clue as to who or what St. Bonaventure was.

Those two somewhat disparate strands of thought came together for me on Friday; made me smile, when I thought about it (also made me recall that when I was first considering converting, one of the first churches we checked out, on the recommendation of a friend, was St. Bonaventure in Bloomington). Friday was the feast of St. Bonaventure, and the Psalm for that Mass had as its response one of the most poetic images of the old Mass. "I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord." You know how the Psalm responses at daily Mass are - they can be long and difficult to remember if you don't have some kind of guide. But this one came naturally to me, and to many in the chapel.

The full text, as it appeared in the Tridentine, was referred to as the priest's Act of Thanksgiving, and it came just after he had consumed the Host and was about to consume the Blood. Silently, he would recite the verse: "What return shall I make to the Lord for all He has given me? I will take the Chalice of salvation and I will call upon the name of the Lord. Praising will I call upon the Lord and I shall be saved from my enemies." It's a wonderful image, one that often comes to me when I consider all that the Lord has done for me, and how I so often fail to show gratitude for those things.

If you're interested in a little more linkage, I can take you back to the Mass last Tuesday. I didn't have the opportunity to write about it at the time, but it came on the heels of my post about going to Confession, and seemed to be the perfect follow-up. As Fr. Baer put it, the message of the Gospel was this: when God does something good for you, repent. Now, that may seem like a strange way to celebrate; but Christianity is, if nothing else, a wealth of contradiction (the meek inherit the earth, we are strongest when we are weak, etc.), and one of the greatest gifts of thanks that we can give to Jesus is to meet Him in the confessional and repent of our sins. He wants only the best for us, wants us to reach the heights for which we were created, and we do that by turning away from our sins and being faithful to the Gospel (another line used in the liturgy, that of Ash Wednesday).

I understand this urge; when I was running for office and had a good day, either by getting offers of support or monetary contributions, I would frequently end the day by going to confession. I do that often on my birthday as well. I don't think I could articulate just why I felt it was a good idea; it just seemed like it was. But I think all these things taken together explain why. God doesn't want sacrifices of burnt offerings from us; the sacrifice He desires is a sacrifice of ourselves, a giving over to him. One of the best ways to do this is by changing, or reaffirming, our way of life by seeking out and finding Him in the Sacrament of Confession. In this act that demonstrates God's supreme love for us, we can truly accept his cup of salvation, the cup purchased at such a terrible price. In accepting that cup we praise Him, and in calling upon His name we shall be saved from our enemies.

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