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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Hosanna! I Have the Answer!

I left my Dr. Laura hat out by the curb, in the hope that someone will run over it when they try to park. But we have some other questions from a reader:


1. Why does the priest bow to the altar on his way to the ambo? I can understand bowing to Jesus present in the tabernacle behind the altar, but he is definitely bowing to the altar (with his back to Jesus in fact)and not the tabernacle. Why?
2. Why do we bow our heads as we say "and became man" during the creed? While I am honored that Jesus chose to humble himself and become a man for me, I am even more awed at some of the other things He did that are mentioned in the creed, like "was crucified, died and was buried." or "rose from the dead." Why an act of reverence for "just" becoming a man?
3. When we say "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" during the Hosanna, who are we talking about? The whole prayer seems to be referring to God without specifying Father, Son or Spirit so I was wondering if this line speaks about someone other than God, or if the prayer is made to God the Father and this line is referring to His son.
Thanks for any insight you will offer.


I can handle these! Whew!

Question 1: To non-Catholics, every aspect of the Mass must look like some elaborate square dance. Bow to your corners! At least I can explain about the ambo. Much easier than explaining what an '"Allemande" is. Try explaining that move! I know it may involve going left the old left hand.

So the ambo is basically the pulpit. I thought everyone stopped calling it an ambo and started calling it a pulpit. Although they are a bit different. An ambo is a raised platform. It used to be a sort of movable lectern and then it became a piece of church furniture. A very elaborate piece. Ah, the good old days of elaborate church furniture! When did the whole church go Danish modern? The new statues make me feel like I'm on Easter Island.

But I digress. The bowing toward the ambo is not prescribed in liturgical books, but probably arose from a sense of reverence and respect for the Word of God which is about to be read from the ambo.

If the priest is bowing toward the altar, then the Book of Gospels is there and he's bowing toward that. Then he'll alamande left with the old left hand over to the ambo.

No, he won't. That's just what the non-Catholics think he's doing.

Question 2. I think you could have figured this one out. How does Jesus die for our sins or rise from the dead, so you can be amazed at that, if He first doesn't first do the stunningly humble move of being born a man? It calls for a profound pause.

Think about it. God. Omnipotent, eternal, "I Am." Rolling around heaven all day even before there was an earth. No body to get tired. No feet to hurt. After an eternity, literally, God makes us to join Him. In the great scheme of things we've only been here a very short time and we've can barely get anything right. We'd tie our own shoe laces together and start walking and break out our front teeth, left to our own devices. You, as God...you don't really even have to pay attention if you'd rather not. Luckily, you're paying close attention. Imagine what it would be like to have to deal with being born and having a body. Was Jesus lactose intolerant? Did He suffer during allergy season? Probably not. But you get my drift. I'm sure His feet hurt, at the very least, from all that walking.

Or just try to imagine something very big becoming very small. A dinosaur standing in front of you suddenly becomes a golden retriever. You've got to be impressed with that!

"..and became Man." The collective gasp after hearing those words should suck all the air right out of the room. A bow of the head is the least we can expect.

But feel free to bow your head at every turn during the creed. Why not? Good for you and your sense of awe. I won't try to stop you. Good for you feeling all that reverence! the extra head bowing will cause the visiting non-Catholics to be further confused, wondering if we've switched from a square dance to the hokey pokey. But their opinions have never concerned us one way or the other, really.
Question 3: We're quoting the Gospel of Matthew here, when Jesus rode in on Palm Sunday. "He who comes in the name of the Lord" is Jesus. That's what they said when He rode in and we're quoting them. It's not an accurate description of Jesus, exactly. But if we said, "Blessed is the Lord!" we wouldn't be quoting them anymore. We don't go around saying 'Hosanna!" as a rule either...that should have been a tip off for you that maybe it was 'from' something.

Although, I'd be willing to work a Hosanna or two into my everyday vernacular to have those great old statues back. I know they're around somewhere in some body's church basement.

16 comments:

Michelle said...

Well, a potential follow-on question from non-Catholics (or poorly catechized Catholics) is "Why does the priest bow to the Gospels?" That whole "Word of God" and "Word made flesh" and "In the beginning, there was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..." - all really quite mind-boggling, at least to me.

Kevin said...

Sister - Thanks for the extra prayers for LeBron and Co.!

I'm working on a novena, and although the Spurs are tough, I think the Finals will still be going on when it's complete.

Melody J said...

It is my understanding that the priest bows to the altar (not the ambo) because that is where the consecration takes place, where the bread and wine, become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Isn't that correct?

Anonymous said...

As with melody j: Doesn't the priest bow to the altar for the same reason he kisses the altar when he processes in?

Sister Mary Martha said...

Kevin, I only pray for the immortal souls of Lebron and Co. Not to mention I was for Detroit. (lots of praying for Rasheed.....poor man.) But now that the Cavs are in, it should make for an interesting series. Congratulations to Cleveland.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Melody, you are correct, but the question was about a specific moment of bowing, just before the Gospel, unless I misunderstood the question.

Kitty said...

Sister, I love this blog and have been reading through your archives over the last several nights. I have learned a LOT. I thought, every time we sang "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," we were talking about ourselve, Catholics, walking around, "representing" Jesus to the rest of the world. And then going on to sing "Hosanna in the highest," referring to Who we are trying to represent. Oops, I should have paid better attention in CCD, and I DEFINITELY need to keep studying your blog!! :-)

Anonymous said...

The Incarnation - the lynch-pin of my faith. More so than any other of the Great Mysteries.
I think I've mentioned it before - my ex-parish priest, the trappist monk, explained it in great depth. He said that God becoming Man was aoens away from the leap of faith it would take for you or me to voluntarily choose to become a dog, for example. He said it was just mind-blowing and beyond our comprehension.
It is.

But I used to think I wouldn't mind being my cat sometimes.......

Sister Mary Martha said...

Although I envy Teddy, our convent Cat when he is sleeping soundly on the bed on his back with his feet out, I would never want his dinner.

Lisa said...

Some folks at my church bow at "was made man," and stay down for the entire incarnation, cricifixion, death and descent. They don't pop up until "On the third day he rose again." I always thought it was a reverent gesture in the sense of "Who am I that for my sake/ my Lord should take/ frail flesh and die?"

Anonymous said...

Hi Sister! I have a quick question that I hope is within your realm to answer. I have a dear friend who will be ordained to the priesthood tomorrow morning. He's been a family friend for several years, and while we're not particularly close, we do enjoy a good chat every time he's in town. My question is this, as I am currently looking for a spiritual director (in a diocese that is rather understaffed), would it be appropriate to ask my friend to fill this role or should I attempt to find a more experienced priest? Thanks!

Alexa said...

I too have a question.

When Jesus said, "I thirst." What is the significance of them having put a sponge soaked in vinegar and offering it to him -- and why was there vinegar up there on the hill in the first place?

Anonymous said...

Vinegar, as in "wine vinegar" Probably someone in the crowd had it, maybe the soldiers.
When I was at school, the nuns told us that it was given as a kindness, because the wine would have perhaps dulled the pain. It was put on the sponge on a hyssop stick. Jewish purification rituals sometimes involved sprinking water from hyssop.
Maybe it was all symbolic.

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Maria said...

The first question was asking why the priest bowed to the altar, not the ambo. Similar words, easy mistake to make.
The altar symbolizes Christ and is where He offers Himself to the Father. Hence one bows to it. I've read a couple of discussions on what one should do when the tabernacle is behind the altar (i.e., genuflect and 'ignore' the altar, or bow to the altar and 'ignore' Jesus in the tabernacle), and nothing seemed very conclusive, except that one probably shouldn't go by in between the two.

The 'Easter Island' statues are from the basilica of St. Joseph's Oratory, here in Montreal. I don't particularly care for the decoration of the basilica (the crypt church is nicer), but in any case the statues are so tall and thin to work with the height of the church.

Anonymous said...

Despite some variations I've noted in the responses (and in no way suggesting they are inappropriate),the rubric for Catholics is to bow during the creed at the words "He was born of the Virgin Mary" and to cease bowing while reciting "and became man". I have always understood this particular posture at this moment to be a veneration of the unique role the Blessed Virgin plays in salvation history.