my position in the choir loft I am in a direct line of vision with a painting of
St. John the Evangelist.
The painting depicts St. John holding
a chalice with his right hand, and his left hand touching his chest. Out of the chalice
is rising an unmistakable green snake! Its position is such that it looks as if the
snake has just bitten or will bite St. John's left hand.
Why does St. John have a snake in his
chalice? I've asked many people, and nobody knows.
at least some religious houses on December 27, the Feast of St. John, the religious
superior blesses wine which is then drunk at the meal. The old Roman Ritual contained
a blessing of wine for this feast. This commemorates the legend that once, while at
Ephesus, John was given a cup of poisoned wine to drink. Before drinking, he blessed
the cup and the poison departed the cup in the form of a serpent.
According to Francis X. Weiser in the Handbook
of Christian Feasts and Customs (Harcourt Brace), as late as 1952 Catholics in
Central Europe brought wine and cider to church for blessing on the feast of St.
John. They then took it home and some of them poured a bit of the blessed wine or
cider into every barrel in the cellar.
The blessed wine is called by some the "love
of St. John." In some places the bride and groom at a wedding are given a sip to drink.
In other cases a sip of the wine is given to a dying person as a sacramental.
of a Home
Q: I would
like information on the proper way to have a home blessed. What does it entail and
who performs it?
Roman Ritual (Book of Blessings) provides blessings of a home for two occasions.
One is the blessing of a new home which can be done at any time. The other is a blessing
for homes during the Christmas season, especially on the feast of the Epiphany, and
the Easter season.
The directives for both situations say
a priest, deacon or layperson may perform the blessings. If a layperson gives the blessing,
the person is to use the rites and prayers designated for a lay minister.
The Book of Blessings directs that
the blessing should not be given unless those who live in the home are presentyou
don't just bless empty living quarters.
How do you arrange for the blessing? You
call your parish priest and simply ask if he will come and bless your home. You can
make as much of the occasion as you or he wishes. You can offer some refreshment or
invite him for dinner if you wish. If he is blessing a number of homes at the same
time, he may simply want to perform the blessing and move to the next home.
In the event a priest or deacon is unable
to come to the home, I see nothing to keep the head of the household from blessing
the home in the presence of the family.
Ranking of Angels
the July issue of St. Anthony Messenger you explained the meaning of the word Seraph.
I did not know until then there were nine different types of angels. In your answer
you listed all nine choirs and said something to the fact that Seraphim were on the
Can we assume that the list you gave,
of the nine categories or choirs of angels, is in the order of importance or ranking,
with Seraphim ranking first followed by Cherubim and then Thrones, Dominations, Virtues,
Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels ranking last?
to Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, the division of angels into
nine orders is not a truth of faith but a free theological opinion.
At the turn of the sixth century Pseudo-Dionysius,
drawing on references to angels in the Scriptures, divided the angels into three hierarchies
with three choirs in each hierarchy. That became the common teaching of theologians
and the Church.
According to Adolf Tanquerey in A Manual
of Dogmatic Theology, St. Thomas puts the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones in the
first hierarchy. In the second are the Dominations, Virtues and Powers. The third
is composed of Principalities, Archangels and Angels.
Tanquerey, following St. Thomas, says the "Seraphim
excel in the supreme excellence of all, in being united to God through charity."
did kneelers come into common use in churches?
asked your question, liturgist Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., replied, "I would refer
you to The Postures of the Assembly During the Eucharistic Prayer, by John K.
Leonard and Nathan D. Mitchell (Liturgy Training Publications), regarding the practice
of kneeling at prayer.
"Regarding kneelers as furniture, I would
presume they were relatively late. Originally there were no pieces of furniture for
the 'circumstantes' (those standing about), simply a chair for the president.
As a concession to the infirm, stone seats began to be attached to pillars, or to the
walls. By the end of the 13th century many churches in England appear to have some
wooden benchesoften called pews.
"When kneelers began to be attached to
the pews, I do not know. Pews become common as printing becomes more common and we
pass from a manuscript culture [where books were rare and more often heard than read]
to a print culture [with wide distribution of books]. People line up in pews in churches
as words line up on a page.
"As public worship expresses who we are
as a community in the presence of God, I find it interesting that Leonard and Mitchell
say, 'It is not for no reason that the Orthodox have been characterized as "the Church
standing," the Roman Catholics as "the Church kneeling" and the Protestants as "the
"'These basic bodily postures communicate
a great deal about the self-identity of these Christian communions. Though none of
these postures is exclusive to the Church that it characterizes, each one tells us
something about basic attitudes: standing as praising God with upright bodies, kneeling
as an act either of adoration or of penitence, and sitting as an act of receptivity,
listening and participating in a common meal. Each posture certainly has its advantages,
and each makes a great deal of difference in the self-understanding of the Church.'"
is excommunication and what are the grounds for it?
are two kinds of excommunications. One takes place by a public statement of the proper
authorityJohn Doe is excommunicated because ________. We call this an imposed
or declared excommunication. The second kind of excommunication is incurred ipso
facto or latae sententiae. That means if you commit a certain crime or sin
(and if all the conditions under law are present), you are by that very fact excommunicated.
All excommunications are meant to be medicinal.
They are a kind of shock therapy intended to make sinners aware of the seriousness
of their sin and their spiritual condition and call them to conversion.
An excommunicated person (Canon #133) is
forbidden: 1) to have any ministerial part in the celebration of the sacrifice of the
Eucharist or any other ceremonies of public worship; 2) to celebrate the sacraments
or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments; 3) to exercise any ecclesiastical offices,
ministries or acts of governance.
Some other provisions of the law forbid
the exercise of certain privileges, outlaw the reception of any dignity, office or
function in the Church, and invalidate acts of governance.
Automatic excommunication is incurred for
the following sins: 1) apostasy, (ipso facto) heresy, schism (Canon #1364,1);
2) violation of the sacred species (Canon #1307); 3) physical attack on the pope (Canon
#1370,1); 4) absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment (Canon
#1378,1); 5) unauthorized ordination of a bishop (both the one ordaining and the one
ordained are excommunicated) (Canon #1382); 6) direct violation by a confessor of the
seal of confession (Canon #1388); 7) procuring an abortion (Canon #1398); 8) recording
by a technical instrument or divulging in the communications media what was said by
a confessor or a penitent in sacramental confession whether performed by oneself or
another (added in 1988).
Because excommunication is a medicinal
penalty, it must be absolved when the person truly repents. Sometimes remission of
the penalty is reserved to the Holy See, for example, when a confessor directly violates
the seal of confession. The usual place to begin the process for removing the excommunication
is in the Sacrament of Confession or with the authority who imposed the excommunication.
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