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On Bended Knee

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Fr. Timothy Schumaker shares reflections on some of the signs, symbols and gestures of our Catholic faith that we do so easily, to remind us why we do things so that we can bring more intentionality into them when we do them.

Why, when we enter and exit our pew, do we genuflect? The first thing we need to keep in mind is who we are genuflecting to, now obviously that is God, but we genuflect in a particular way to Jesus in the Eucharist.

You may notice that when Father Dennis and I come to the foot of the sanctuary we bow, that is because our tabernacle is not directly behind the altar, if it was, we would genuflect.

Now at its core, genuflecting is a gesture of obedience and humility as well as a sign of respect. In the Middle Ages when coming in the presence of a king one would genuflect with their left knee. Catholics genuflect to God with their right knee to show that God is not only a earthly king, but a heavenly one.

But there is something to this act which I did not even consider until I was doing research for this reflection. And that is that the very posture of genuflecting places us in a unbalanced and a vulnerable state. When genuflecting, we are easily pushed down, we are physically in a compromised position, we are at the mercy of the one we are genuflecting to.

The symbolism of this is clear, every time we genuflect we are placing our life at the mercy of God. We are speaking with our bodies and saying, Lord, I place myself, my life, at your mercy, to obey you in humility and respect, I place all of the sufferings, anxieties, all of the joys, of my life before you. They are all yours, do with them what you will. The beautiful part is that we are doing this to a God who has placed himself at our mercy, containing himself in a piece of bread, we are just doing to God what he has already done for us.

Holy Water

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During Advent, Fr. Timothy Schumaker shared reflections on some of the signs, symbols and gestures of our Catholic faith to remind us why we do these things so that we can bring more intentionality when we do them.

To begin, I thought I would comment on the very first thing we do when we walk into church - blessing ourselves with Holy Water. We probably don’t’ even think about it anymore because we are so used to it. 

The first and main reason is because it reminds us of our Baptism. Reminds us that we are children of God, saved by his grace and a member of his Church, we literally sign ourselves with the water which made us so at our baptism.

This makes for a beautiful moment, because the very first thing we do upon entering a church is to affirm our identity: Children of God. Whenever we walk into the church, dip our hand in the water and make the sign of the cross we are affirming who we are, we do not enter the church as guests or strangers, we enter as beloved sons and daughters, we enter into our home.

In addition, this act contains the bookends of how Christ has saved us, we use holy water, which reminds us of Jesus’ Baptism his first act salvation and then we make the sign of the cross, the cross that marked the last act of salvation by Jesus. In that one act we are remembering the beginning and end of how Jesus rescues us. It expresses the history of salvation.

Finally, since we do this at the entrance of the church, it marks a moment of transition. When we are leaving the secular and entering the sacred. This very space is called the sanctuary, a place where the anxieties and evils of the world have no power. And so by blessing ourselves with Holy Water it is an opportunity to consciously leave all that worries us outside. So that this sanctuary will be a place of rest, peace, renewal and encounter with God.

In conclusion the reason we sign ourselves with holy water is because it reminds us of our identity as son and daughters through Baptism, expresses salvation history and marks our transition from the secular to the sacred.    

Oh, Joy

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Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are the result of God’s love and the new life we receive from being united with Jesus. The fruits provide a glimpse at eternal glory. Joy is, quite literally, a slice of heaven. When looking up “joy” in the catechism, it sends you to a passage about happiness that relates to hope, one of the theological virtues (CCC#1818). The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity. Joy comes from love, love as it exists in true human charity. What brings you joy? True joy not just happiness. I had to stop and think about this. For me, I would be remiss if I didn’t state that the innocence and industry of children brings me true joy. True joy is in the giggles and silliness. True joy for me is connecting with another person so much so that I can see the face of God. True joy is recognizing God in the moments of my day especially on the hard days. True joy is seeing a goal completed knowing every skill set I’ve been given has been used to arrive there. True joy is surrender to the will of the Father. 

Where is your joy?

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