“And He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’” (Mt 13:52)
The Church celebrates God’s treasures – His new and His old. She celebrates the new lives He creates and new souls ready to view His creation afresh and love afresh. She celebrates Him who knits new lives in their mothers’ wombs – who makes all these lives wonderfully (c.f. Ps 139:13-14).
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth! Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted by the mouth of babes and infants, thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” (Ps 8:1-2)
Because of the great dignity of these new treasures God makes, the Church has always stood firmly against the willful destruction of them and she has fought to save every one of these treasures, even to the cost of her own life.
“You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.” (The Didache c. AD 100).
“But as for us, we have been taught that to expose [to the elements to die] newly-born children is the part of wicked men.” (St. Justin Martyr First Apologia Ch. 27 written to the Roman Emperor c. AD 155, beheaded AD 165).
She stands firm now to protect these new treasures with the old – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving…and all-night prayer vigils.
Before the March for Life, there was the awesome National Prayer Vigil for Life at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The schedule was: Confession, Mass, more Confession, rosary, Byzantine Compline, all-night adoration, Morning Prayer, Mass – talk about a power line-up!
I was really glad we lost power that day at work. I got to leave early enough to just barely make it to the basilica in time to stand in the looong line for Confession and finish in time for “standing room only” rosary and Mass. It’s really cool to hear several thousand people all praying the rosary together (roaring the rosary, maybe?). Mass is the greatest treasure of the Church. In it the one sacrifice of Christ is made present to us (c.f. CCC 1366) and we receive our God Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist “the source and summit of the Christian life.” (Lumen Gentium 11). So what could make Mass better? Well…technically nothing…but what could make Mass cooler!? Try having a Mass celebrated by Cardinal O’Malley, the Chairman of the US Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities and concelebrated and attended by so many bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians that the entrance procession lasted literally 30-40 min! The good cardinal gave a great homily in which he compared “reproductive rights” such as abortion to the emperor’s new clothes and the Church to the little child in the story who speaks up that the “clothes” are a lie and do not exist. He also exhorted us to defend God’s little treasures by defending their mothers and providing them a loving and merciful community – never letting them feel condemned. (Homily available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lupwh0-D9wk)
After Mass was the National Rosary for Life where we prayed for each of the states in the country by name. This began the events in the Crypt Church which is under the main church. I’m glad we spent the night there – the lower ceiling made it a LOT warmer. Next came Compline led by the Byzantine Catholic Bishop of Passaic, which Zack fortunately got there in time to participate in. The Byzantines are a treasure. Their liturgies are very beautiful and of a more ancient style than what we are used to. Now, in the Roman Rite, Compline takes maybe 10-15 min chanting at normal speed with one or two psalms. Apparently that’s not good enough for the Byzantines. Three psalms at ludicrous speed (yeah, we went the plaid), the Gloria from Mass, the Creed, and about seven pages of prayers to the Blessed Mother (which were really cool) along with intercessions and other prayers and a homily brought it to an hour. Everything except the homily was chanted. Highlights of this liturgy include: “O Virgin, despise not the flowing of my tears, for you have given birth to the Lord, Who wipes away all tears.” and “It is truly proper to glorify you, O Theotokos (God-bearer), the ever blessed, Immaculate and Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who a Virgin gave birth to God the Word; you, truly the Theotokos, we magnify.” and “Lord, have mercy. (40 times)”. The bishop encouraged us to remember that abortion is a fruit of the eugenics movement, which came to prominence in this country, and to remember never to consider anyone unworthy of bearing children, especially the poor, as they are often the most loving of all people. I’m reminded of St. Lawrence of Rome presenting the poor, crippled, and blind to the prefect of Rome when he demanded all the Church’s treasure….
So…how do you keep up a bunch of people praying all night? Duh! You expose Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and bring out six seminaries to entertain…er…lead everyone in prayer! Each seminary took a different hour, and each had a very distinct culture. First was Blessed John XXIII Seminary, which is a seminary for older men. Their treasure, as one might guess, was of the “old” variety. Latin chant, Litany of Mary – very standard and VERY well done – a beautiful prayer time. Next was Redemptoris Mater Seminary. I’m guessing this is where most of the foreign-born seminarians go, since everyone had an accent. Their treasure was of a decidedly “new” variety. When they entered, there were literally about 50 of them, and 4 of them whipped out guitars on cue (my honest first reaction was that I was in a gangster movie, and they all had Tommy guns). We sang another rosary (not complaining) to Latin music (not in Latin, but Hispanic sounding). Seriously…I thought we were going to wake up half the neighborhood. They thundered. We also chanted part of the Office of Readings in similar fashion. Mount St. Mary’s took up the next slot and focused on simply adoring the Lord. I wish I could have done as well as them…I know I was doing some of the ol’ headbanging trying to stay awake. I also remember dropping my rosary – I think the sound probably woke someone up – probably me. I weathered Theological College’s holy hour a lot better. They are another seminary with an “old” type treasure. We beautifully chanted the Invitatory Psalm in Latin, followed by the Office of Readings which included an extended reading from Deuteronomy and another extended reading from St. Augustine. You might be thinking to yourself “Um…and THIS was supposed to keep people awake?” Rest assured (pun intended), that we were very much kept awake by passages like “It was not because you are the largest of nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations. It was because the Lord loved you and because of his fidelity to the oath he had sworn to you fathers, that he brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery, and ransomed you…” and “No one ought to rely on his own feelings when he speaks out, nor be confident in his own strength when he undergoes temptation. For whenever we speak prudently as we should, our wisdom comes from him, and whenever we endure evils courageously, our long suffering comes from him.” Aw yeah! Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto! The next hour was manned by St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. These guys beautifully sang meditation songs in Latin, apparently figuring the point of Adoration is to…well…adore Jesus. They also sang in polyphony so that geeks like me who happen to have the words to Adoro Te Devote memorized couldn’t sing along because the chant was different. The final seminary was St. John’s Seminary, which really bore out the idea of bringing out the old and new treasures. After a period of silent adoration, we sang the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is a very new prayer in the history of the Church. The devotion itself is less than a century old, and the English version was only first published within my lifetime. The Crypt Church activities were concluded by something I especially loved – CHANTING MORNING PRAYER WITH THE DOMINICANS!!! There are certain treasures that just never grow old. This was one of them. To avoid doubling or tripling the length of this post, this is all I’ll write about Morning Prayer – awesome.
Now that the sun was up and everyone was “awake,” we rose from the Crypt Church and ran back to the main church in time to get a seat. Ain’t no better way to offer up a day of penance and petition for souls in danger than Mass. He loves to be with His people, and we love to be with Him! The Mass was significantly smaller, considering a lot of bishops, priests, and youth (well, only ~30,000) were over at the Youth Rally and Mass. Been there before – really cool. Our Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Vigano, the Papal Nuncio to the United States. The first reading I thought was especially appropriate. I’ll highlight the story of David and Goliath from 1 Sam 17:45-48:
“David answered him: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel that you have insulted. Today the LORD shall deliver you into my hand; I will strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will leave your corpse and the corpses of the Philistine army for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field; thus the whole land shall learn that Israel has a God. All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves. For the battle is the LORD’S, and he shall deliver you into our hands.” The Philistine then moved to meet David at close quarters, while David ran quickly toward the battle line in the direction of the Philistine.”
Archbishop Chaput was going to give the homily, but his transportation was canceled due to the storm…so he gave it through a priest who was there! He spoke about how evil only wants tolerance when it is weak; good and evil cannot coexist together. We should neither be optimistic nor pessimistic, but rather hopeful in the God whose love always wins. Now we were ready to march.
I’ll finish this post with an image I think I received from God during the opening Mass. Since I was sitting WAAAAAY back in the standing room only boonies (and I’m short), when the procession started, all I could see was the crucifix. I could not even see the pole it was on. Visually, this looked like Jesus on the cross solemnly moving forward. I then saw the events of the vigil and the march as Christ in His Church making present in the world His sacrifice. Jesus began the events of His Passion on Holy Thursday when He offered Himself in the Eucharist. Then, He spent the entire night in prayer and, when exhausted, was arrested, tried, and forced to march through the capital to where He forever put the scale of justice on the side of salvation. I saw Him very much present there and present in what we were about to do.
“Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the “sin of the world,” of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.” (CCC 1505)
Staying up the whole night and marching the whole day in the bitter cold isn’t pleasant, but suffering in Christ for others is an ancient treasure the Church holds out for us. It bears fruit we often can’t even see, and it’s beautiful. If there is still need for the prayer vigil, and if you can make it, I highly recommend it.
God loves His treasures. Let us, as His Church, lovingly accept both the new and old treasures He brings out to us and persevere in defending those precious little treasures by defending all God’s treasures.