Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Catholic Defender: Sitting at the King's Gate

"On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were gathered, and a young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the window sill was sinking into a deep sleep, as Paul talked on and on. Once overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and he was picked up, he was dead. Paul went down, threw himself upon him, and said as he embraced him, 'Don't be alarmed: there is life in him'. Then he returned upstairs, broke the bread, and ate; after a long conversation that lasted until daybreak, he departed".

Not only is it recorded here that St. Paul conducted the first Midnight Mass, he is probably the first recorded Apostle to have someone fall asleep on him!

I remember sitting next to my Mother at Midnight Mass and I was so tired I wanted to sleep so bad.

My Mother kept me going. Traditionally, sitting was always a posture of listening and meditation.

Tradition pictures the throng of people sitting around Jesus to listen to him speak known as the Sermon of the Mount.

It was on a Passover day, John 6:10, Jesus instructs the Apostles to "Have the people recline.' Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted."

There was a multitude that was fed with five barley loaves and two fish.

Today, the congregation sits for the scripture readings preparing for the Gospel reading when everyone stands.

The congregation sits to hear the sermon at Mass much as they did to here Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount and the Multiplication of the Loaves.

Of course today we have nice pews to sit and listen as opposed to the grass in the field or the Temples 2,000 years ago.

As we sit to hear the scripture readings we should be attentive to the word of God proclaimed to us.

St. Paul instructs St. Timothy to "Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you" (1 Timothy 4:16).

It is important to note here that no one carried a bible to Mass in the time of the Apostles and their successors. It would take many centuries before that capability would arrive.

The word of God was proclaimed and handed down to the people from generation to generation. In the early Church, there was a rule of order.

"If a revelation is given to another person sitting there, the first one should be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the prophets control, since he is not the God of disorder but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:30-32).

Today, at Mass, we have usually the Old Testament reading followed by the Responsorial Psalm.

Then a New Testament Epistle reading, usually from a letter of St. Paul, is read before the Gospel. Every three years using the Church Calender, A, B, and C the Church proclaims the bible.

Everyone at Mass should strive to sit with a posture during Mass to be attentive to the word of the Lord, and not just simply be a resting position.

Otherwise, you might fall asleep like Eutychus. We are invited to sit and listen, but it is most highly expected that you read the scriptural readings prior to Mass to help prepare for the message.

Certainly, the more you open yourself and apply yourself the more you will get out of it.

"Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).

"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path" (Psalms 119:105).

Speaking of light, Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house" (Matthew 5:14-15).

Jesus invites us at Mass to sit and recline to listen to the word of God.

As King, Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father and he sits in the Judgment seat.

Moses was given his "judgment seat of authority, and now the Pope is given this authority seat (Matthew 16:18).

Let us open our hearts and receive the King into the gates of our hearts as we sit to hear his word.

"Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving. Give thanks to God, bless his name; good indeed is the Lord, whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age" (Psalms 100:4).

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