Okay… this’ll have to be a relatively short and quick post—just to show that yes, I’m still alive and kicking (perhaps barely, but still going anyway). I’m deep into the final week and a half of class before Christmas break and they’re super busy days. I’ve often said to my friends here that I’m living advent to the full nowadays in the sense that I’m keeping watch… If the Good Lord comes at some point during the night, I think He’d be mildly amused to find me still up and waiting. c”,) Hehehehehehe
So what’s been going on? Well, I’ve rejoined a little bit of my youth… Since my last post, I’ve had two field trips down to Brussels for my Hebrew class. The first visit was to the Jewish museum where a professor well versed with Jewish culture and traditions gave us a bit of a tour. The other field trip, which took place yesterday (Tuesday) was to the Grand Synagogue in Brussels, located on what the grand rabbi who gave us the tour called the central street of Brussels. On one end is the towering palace of justice with the royal palace in the middle and the legislative offices far on the other end. There are a whole bunch of museums dotting the sides too… it’s one of the main streets of the city. Well, the grand rabbi welcomed us yesterday and spoke to us a little bit about Jewish theology—the value of the Sabbath, the meaning of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD (rather than punishing and destroying the people for their sins, the good Lord destroyed the building), and a few of the symbolisms of Judaism (the synagogue itself and the little skull cap which all of us were required to wear). One of the first things he did to encourage us on our Hebrew studies was to offer us (at 50% off reduced price) his book on Judaism. He did it in such an enthusiastic way that we all just laughed at it and most of us decided to pick up his book in the end.
The other thing that I’ve been up to was to go to a huge celebration in the abbey of Maredsous. About 50 years ago sometime around this time, the council fathers of Vatican II released the first conciliar document “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, on the Sacred Liturgy. The bishops and the cardinal of Belgium, I think appropriately decided to celebrate this great document by gathering together and celebrating Liturgy—we went to the abbey and sang solemn 2nd vespers (for the 2nd Sunday of Advent) with the monks. It was a longer than usual Vespers and it included a nice long homily given by Cardinal Daneels, which was really more like a prayer of his memories of the times surrounding the Council. Another highlight was the fact that for the intercessions, they read some of the key passages of Sacrosanctum Concilium and drew the intercessions from there. It was an amazing event!
And, because one of my classmates in the seminary is a monk in Maredsous, just before the event, he gave me a little tour of the ancient monastery. What a holy place! We went by the boarding school where a whole bunch of students study, the grounds… I got to go into a part of the cloistered area and see the chapter room where the monks hold their community meetings/chapters. He also took me down into the crypt and to the cemetery. I also, later on in the evening, got to see the monastery refectory because that’s where they held a small reception for all of us who came to the abbey for this liturgical celebration.
Okay… that’s as far as I’ll post for now… I’ve gotta get back to work… I’ll try and have something longer and more substantial for you guys after classes end next week! In the meantime, have a holy Advent and God bless!
Photo from pgrequeni on Flickr
I always love Sundays. They always seem to come at the perfect moment each week to give me some much much needed rest from the work and stress of the week that was. And after a month like I’ve had (which you can probably guess given the fact that I haven’t blogged in close to a month), the little bit of rest is very much appreciated.
On top of the tremendous amount of exams and papers (I’ve got two of these again due next week), this month was extra special for me because it was almost my “liturgical month.” Since getting back from my home weekend a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been assigned to serve at Mass, first as the MC (Master of Ceremonies) and then as the thurifer and finally, this week, as the acolyte. The MC is by far, one of the coolest liturgical jobs out here because he’s pretty much right next to the main celebrant throughout the whole Mass. He’s the guy who’s supposed to know all that’s going on and what’s coming next. Really, his main job is to turn the pages of the Sacramentary but when you’re kneeling next to the priest during the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament, you would know how cool it is to be “just turning pages.” The thurifer on the other hand is in charge of the thurible, which is that awesome looking contraption that lets out all the incense during Mass. I only really got to play the role of thurible once during Benediction after our Holy Hour this year because the Sunday I was supposed to work with it (i.e. last Sunday) was the Feast of Christ the King which meant that the abbot was the main celebrant and the whole crew changed. Whenever the abbot is the main celebrant at Mass, it’s always a huge deal. Because he’s the leader of the monks in the monastery, he’s almost like a bishop, which means he’s got his own mitre (the hat) and crosier (the staff). That means that we’ve got a crew, called the pontifical crew, who only really start coming into the picture whenever it’s the abbot who’s celebrating.
Anyways, what I really wanted to talk about is just the atmosphere of extreme excitement that is pervading the monastery and seminary today. It’s first of all the first day of Advent, which in itself is already a huge thing to get really excited about. Starting last night with Vespers and Vigils, so much has already changed. We’ve switched to the Common of Advent for Vespers which meant that we sang different hymns and had different responses as well as different antiphons. The biggest change for Vigils (sometimes also called Matins) was the shift in our final hymn before bed from the Salve Regina to the Alma Redemptoris. It sounded so beautiful in solemn tone last night. Today, just after breakfast, we had a very quick acolyte practice (because both my partner and I have done it extensively before) and together with our trainer, we went over into the sacristy to take a look at the new Sacramentary for the Mass today. And that really is the biggest change for the entire English speaking church isn’t it? It’s finally arrived… what everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the year! The new translation is finally in effect!! We’re all pretty nervous but of course really excited about it. I guess the nervousness comes from the uncertainty about some of our responses now and where exactly the changes are at… In any case, a small chunk of our morning was spent basically slobbering over the new Sacramentary, which looks stellar. The first thing that leapt out at me (because I’m the book bearer for the first half of the week) was that it’s a pretty heavy book… With the 2 new reconcilliation Eucharistic prayers and the 4 other Eucharistic prayers from Switzerland (if I remember correctly), the new Sacramentary is considerably thicker and heavier… Its tabs are much more awesome too because it is now really thick at its ends (so you can easily see the tabs) but really thin in the corner of the book (where it’s attached to the book) because that’s where it can easily get jumbled up… It was pretty innovative what they did now…. I can’t wait to see it all in just a few more minutes… Anyways, I just wanted to send in a quick blurb on that… Mass is in 20 minutes… I can’t wait! Have a great Sunday and God bless!!!
Because this week is the last week of classes and exams start next week, I’m super duper busy so I can only really make a quick update. First of all, we recently had our annual advent program this past Sunday at the seminary. That’s basically our Christmas program for parents and friends of the seminary but it’s also in a lot of ways for us here too. The minors were busy and they showed us the fruit of their labors. Their band performed a few songs from the movie “The Prince of Egypt” and they put on a play as well on the 4th wise man. The majors put on a skit that I think deserves its own post (which I’ll definitely do once things slow down here just a little bit.) For now, I’ll just say that our skit was entitled Green Chri$tma$. We also sang in our choir called Quasimodo (“as if” in Latin) two songs. Puer nobis nascitur and Ave Maria by Arcadelt. On my next post, I’ll put up some pictures.
Like I said though, super busy this week. I’ve got 3 papers due and a number of exams starting next week and I’m waitering again (which takes up a lot of time). But I did get something in the mail from the very nice ladies of the CWL at St. Patricks. They sent a “care package” to all us Vancouver seminarians.
This will definitely help during the upcoming long nights!!! That’s all for today!!! God bless!!!