Living in the Light of the Kingdom – Pastor’s Reflection (November 26, 2017)
This feast speaks to our parish with singular eloquence. Those who designed St. Vincent Ferrer Church possessed an extraordinary sense of Christ’s Kingship and they expressed in it the unique juxtaposition of the High Altar and the Great East Window.
At the top of the altarpiece, now more deeply illuminated by LED vault lights, Christ stands in the royal robes of a conventional monarch and he reigns over human time. From his throne a procession of holy men and women marches down to the altar bearing the Kingdom from Pentecost to the present moment. Caught up in this movement are the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, and the founders of religious communities. In the wake of this vanguard come the saints of the Dominican Order carrying the Lord’s reign in the vessel of our particular way of life. At the center of the composition, St. Vincent Ferrer stands preaching. He demonstrates how his extraordinary apostolate is but a moment in the ongoing advent of the reign of Christ.
High above, in the East Window Christ, completes that reign in glorious stained glass color, arriving at time’s end to fulfill all and inaugurate the age of our complete intimacy with the Trinity. This window offers an icon of the final Passover, set out in the Book of Revelation and preached by Vincent Ferrer.
What actually happens at the High Altar makes the crucial link between the history of time and the end of time. When we celebrate Mass and receive Communion we receive Christ through the hands of apostolic tradition. Indeed, though the readings and chants, as well as the architecture, we are connected to the whole tradition of the holy men and women who have moved through time to timelessness. But we also receive Christ into ourselves so that we may be ready to greet him when time is done. This readiness means more than being found without bad behavior: it refers to the state of desiring God, and communion with my neighbor as a central means to possessing Him.
Here I see that the Kingdom of Christ is already coming in our lives. Through the mystery of Baptism, the Eucharist, and the other sacraments, Christ works to make us ready for Himself. The sacraments animate a whole way of living centered on receiving and living God’s Word. The effect of this is to reorient our whole self so that instead of fearing His coming, we are anxious for it.
While time lasts, the Sermon on the Mount speaks most clearly about the Kingdom’s transformative work in us. The sacraments give us a lens for reading the teachings of beatitude (true happiness). They teach us to read, “love your enemies,” without sweaty fear, or glib dismissal, but to recognize that the love of God is so active that it is giving us a new sense of self and a new sense of others. As it does we acquire solidarity with others we never thought possible, and so the Kingdom comes.
As the course of renewal proceeds we have the company of the Holy Spirit leading from within, and we have the companionship of Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in our tabernacle, which means “tent.” Our Eucharistic Lord makes His camp with us as we move through time toward Him. The High Altar at St. Vincent Ferrer makes this point with its gold and enamel tabernacle and amplifies it with the marble throne above and behind it. Here on solemn occasions the Blessed Sacrament takes its place as the visible unifying element of the whole composition, as it also propels the whole Christian life.
Next weekend, the First Sunday of Advent, will offer the opportunity to experience this iconographic banquet as we have our annual All Night Watch with the Blessed Sacrament at St. Vincent Ferrer. (Each church is called to have such a period, and we have one at St. Catherine’s on September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross.) We will expose the Blessed Sacrament after the Vigil Mass on Saturday, December 2 and pray through the night with Our Lord until Morning Prayer and Benediction at 6 am.
Here is a chance to begin a busy time of year by becoming grounded in the gentle kingdom that is taking us over from the inside out, but is also all around us since it is doing the same thing in so many others. St. Vincent Ferrer High School and the Sisters of Life will join us in this holy enterprise.
The schedule is below.
6 pm Sung Vigil Mass
7 pm The First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of Advent
7:30 pm Enthronement of the Blessed Sacrament
10 pm Night Prayer (Compline)
11 pm Chaplet of Divine Mercy
12 am The Midnight Office (Matins)
2 am The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
3 am The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary
Followed by Graveyard Shift Conference
4 am The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary
5 am The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary
6 am Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Benediction
6:30 am Missa Cantata by Candle light in the Dominican Rite
May these days renew your hope.