MAGNIFICAT: THE SONG OF MIRIAM OF NAZARETH
(paraphrase of Luke 1:46-55, by Kathleen M. Aucoin, SC)
O how my spirit soars in praise of God;
My heart takes full delight
In the Heart of the Holy One.
El Shaddai has remembered me, little as I am;
And because of this, down through the ages
People will stand in awe at God's incredible Love.
Holy, Holy, Holy is God's Name
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy is God's Essence
The blind proud turn away from God's open hands.
Unable to see, they crumble and collapse, yet are caught by God.
Those who lift their face to God are filled to overflowing.
God, the Keeper of Promises, Lover of us all,
Who rushes to our aid, and is our ever-present Companion, remembers…
Remembers us in Compassionate Tenderness
Reaching from Abraham and Sarah, to this generation, and
Until the last of humankind stands upon the earth – forever!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
VATICAN II AT FIFTY: CONVERSATIONS AT THE CROSSROADS
(This reflection on the legacy of Vatican II is the work of Sr. Mary McCormick, SC and other members of the Charity Connections Committee of the Sisters of Charity Federation. Find more reflections at http://sisters-of-charity-federation.org/)
Here we are, the People of God, the whole Church standing at the crossroads, standing on holy ground. I feel a deep sense of hope and even excitement. The election of Pope Francis has signaled a new emphasis on being a humble, gentle Church, committed to serve and to learn from those whose lives are marked by poverty. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II makes me ever more grateful for the new possibilities and new opportunities that the Council opened up for us.
I read just recently in America magazine an intriguing insight offered by the noted historian of the Council, John O'Malley, S.J.: "Among the recurring themes of the council expressive of its spirit, the call to holiness is particularly pervasive and particularly important." I was struck by that insight because in Ephesians 1:4, we read "Before the world was made, God chose us, chose us in Christ to be holy…" Let's talk about how the Second Vatican Council broadened and deepened our call to holiness and how this call becomes a reality in our lives today. Join us in this conversation.
Being Human… Being Holy
". . . transforming the activities and events of everyday life into holy moments . . . this holiness is conducive to a more human way of living." (Lumen Gentium 40)
I find this viewpoint is indeed refreshing. It is a new way of looking at holiness, bringing it down to earth, making it human. Holiness is not limited to saints and hermits. This perspective even makes holiness attractive!
In the fourth century, St. Irenaeus spoke wisely: "The glory of God is the human being fully alive." Sixteen centuries later, Vatican II called us to the fullest possible embrace of our humanness as the means to holiness.
This holiness calls us to immerse ourselves in the lives of all God's people, to be one with each other. It invites each of us to deepen our faith by sharing our unique gifts with one another. "Everyone should walk according to his or her own personal gifts in the pathway of living faith." (LG 41)
In its invitation to recognize that holiness is conducive to a truly "human way of living," the Council awakens in us an awareness that our witness to Christ is most alive and effective when we are "real" and true to our deepest selves, the selves that God created to be holy.
Fuller Participation in the Liturgy
Today in my local parish community there are a variety of ways in which together, we, clergy and laity, do liturgy-- the work of the people.
I remember when Vatican II opened up for us the possibility of this fuller participation. Those were the days when the only people allowed on the altar were the celebrant and the altar boys, when, kneeling, we received communion on the tongue, when the congregation needed missals to understand the Latin prayers recited by the celebrant.
There was for many of us a thrill of hope as, gradually at first, we were invited to share our gifts with the assembled community. The response to the invitations to serve in many different capacities has only increased in the intervening years. Presiders, altar servers, musicians, lectors, ministers of the bread and cup, hospitality ministers, congregation, all play a significant part in the Sunday Eucharist. Praying in our own language added depths of meaning to the experience of the sacred event. And always, I am aware of the reverence which accompanies the carrying out of these varied ministries by those who answer the call to serve.
To understand more fully the great mystery of the Eucharist, many parishioners have over the years participated in classes and faith sharing groups that opened for us the incredible riches of our liturgy.
So although there have been many ways that the Council affected our spiritual lives, for me this fuller participation in the sacred liturgy has been a great source of blessing: it is here that I experience most intensely the presence of Christ not only in Holy Communion, but also in the holy presence of my sisters and brothers.
Riches of Sacred Scripture
In our Bible Study this morning, we had a great discussion about the Emmaus Journey! (Lk 24:13-35) I never realized the connection between Cleophas' struggle and mine. How many times I have just wanted to "get out of town" because of things not turning out like I wanted!
Had it not been for Vatican II, I realize, we probably wouldn't even have been to a Bible study class and learned so much from each other. And, just imagine! Our leader was a lay woman who now has a degree in New Testament study. I remember our family Bible just lying on the coffee table in our living room. Now, my Bible is my companion and my friend!
The Vatican II document, Dei Verbum, calls us to "frequent reading of the divine scriptures" which give us a great knowledge of Jesus. The Council Fathers called for continued Biblical scholarship and collaboration with other Christian and Jewish scholars. I love my Catholic Study Bible because it has such good footnotes, a reading guide and cross references.
I used to be intimidated by the Old Testament! But reading the Prophets and Psalms has taught me how much God is a parent, a shepherd, a lover. One of my favorite verses is "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. (Is 43:1)
Also, I realize the importance of the Liturgy of the Word at Mass and the proclamation of Sacred Scripture in all of our sacramental celebrations. I am thankful for what Vatican II began and hope we continue to mine its riches. The richness of Sacred Scripture nourishes our journey toward wholeness—and holiness!
Peace, Justice, Integrity of Creation
As a result of Vatican II, Peace and Justice Committees have evolved at various levels within the Church. Gaudium et Spes called us to "a deep solidarity with the human race and its history." It recognized "The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts." (GS 1)
My heart echoes:
Is it enough to teach a mathematical formula, to prepare liturgy for the parish community, to make sure a child has all his immunizations? My heart longs to make a difference…
to ensure every child has clean water to drink,
to enable our elderly to feel loved and valued,
to promote the dignity of all my brothers and sisters,
to sing out the sacredness of all life including
the prisoner on death row, the embryo in the womb,
the coyote howling in the night, the stinging wasp,
the fish in the polluted river, the tree in the forest.
I long to be a source of change… of systemic change… the change that brings new life to individuals, to groups of people, to our world… a change that recognizes the beauty and holiness of all life.
What does your heart echo?
"…the force and power in the word of God is so great that it remains the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her children, the food of the soul, the pure and perennial source of spiritual life." (DV 21)
Religious Life and Dialogue: The Road to Emmaus
We do not deny the losses we have borne in the deaths of our wise elders. We grieve at the decrease in membership and the departure of former members. We mourn… those who left the church as well as closed parishes and bureaucratized ministries. Unwelcome changes all.
Letting go frees us to embrace Vatican II's universal call to holiness. In fidelity we have sought the face of God among those who are poor in our time. Global decisions over resources of land and water implemented out of neglect or by design cause immense devastation. In open dialogue with our neighbors, our use of language has softened from dogmatic to pastoral, our conversation from preaching to listening and our stance of acting upon to acting with. Because our lives have been so enriched by others who do not share our faith or symbols, we join with all persons of good will to make life more human. With fresh eyes and burning desire shouldn't we embrace this broad and diverse collaboration with a renewed spirit, creativity and the tenacity of our charism? Together we walk the long Emmaus journey, at first blinded by our losses but encountering at the end the healing presence of Christ.
1. Share your experience of Vatican II.
2. How are the activities/events of your everyday life transformed into holy moments?
3. What stories, passages from Scripture have nurtured your call to holiness?
4. How do you see holiness promoting a more human way of life?