Rekindle Wonder



Rekindle our wonder for the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration

In the month Nisan of the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when the wine was in my charge, I took some and offered it to the king. As I had never before been sad in his presence, the king asked me, "Why do you look sad? If you are not sick, you must be sad at heart." Though I was seized with great fear, I answered the king: "May the king live forever! How could I not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been eaten out by fire?" The king asked me, "What is it, then, that you wish?" I prayed to the God of heaven and then answered the king: "If it please the king, and if your servant is deserving of your favor, send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors' graves, to rebuild it." Then the king, and the queen seated beside him, asked me how long my journey would take and when I would return. I set a date that was acceptable to him, and the king agreed that I might go. I asked the king further: "If it please the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of West-of-Euphrates, that they may afford me safe-conduct till I arrive in Judah; also a letter for Asaph, the keeper of the royal park, that he may give me wood for timbering the gates of the temple-citadel and for the city wall and the house that I shall occupy." The king granted my requests, for the favoring hand of my God was upon me. Thus I proceeded to the governors of West-of-Euphrates and presented the king's letters to them. The king also sent with me army officers and cavalry. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite slave had heard of this, they were very much displeased that someone had come to seek the welfare of the Israelites. When I had arrived in Jerusalem, I first rested there for three days. Then I set out by night with only a few other men (for I had not told anyone what my God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem) and with no other animals but my own mount. I rode out at night by the Valley Gate, passed by the Dragon Spring, and came to the Dung Gate, observing how the walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins and its gates had been eaten out by fire. Then I passed over to the Spring Gate and to the King's Pool. Since there was no room here for my mount to pass with me astride, I continued on foot up the wadi by night, inspecting the wall all the while till I once more reached the Valley Gate, by which I went back in. The magistrates knew nothing of where I had gone or what I was doing, for as yet I had disclosed nothing to the Jews, neither to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the magistrates, nor to the others who would be concerned about the matter. Afterward I said to them: "You see the evil plight in which we stand: how Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been gutted by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer be an object of derision!" Then I explained to them how the favoring hand of my God had rested upon me, and what the king had said to me. They replied, "Let us be up and building!" And they undertook the good work with vigor. On hearing of this, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite slave, and Geshem the Arab mocked us and ridiculed us. "What is this that you are about?" they asked. "Are you rebelling against the king?" My answer to them was this: "It is the God of heaven who will grant us success. We, his servants, shall set about the rebuilding; but for you there is to be neither share nor claim nor memorial in Jerusalem." (Nehemiah 2)


Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I at a time when Judah in Palestine had been partly repopulated by Jews released from their exile in Babylonia. The Temple at Jerusalem had been rebuilt, but the Jewish community there was dispirited and defenseless against its non-Jewish neighbours. Distressed at news of the desolate condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah obtained permission from Artaxerxes to journey to Palestine to help rebuild its ruined structures. He was provided with an escort and with documents that guaranteed the assistance of Judah’s Persian officials. So about 444 bc Nehemiah journeyed to Jerusalem and aroused the people there to the necessity of repopulating the city and rebuilding its walls. Nehemiah encountered hostility from the (non-Jewish) local officials in neighboring districts, but in the space of 52 days the Jews under his direction succeeded in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. (Encyclopedia Brittanica)


Very rightly the fine arts are considered to rank among the noblest activities of man's genius, and this applies especially to religious art and to its highest achievement, which is sacred art. These arts, by their very nature, are oriented toward the infinite beauty of God which they attempt in some way to portray by the work of human hands; they achieve their purpose of redounding to God's praise and glory in proportion as they are directed the more exclusively to the single aim of turning men's minds devoutly toward God. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 122)


Ordinaries, by the encouragement and favor they show to art which is truly sacred, should strive after noble beauty rather than mere sumptuous display. This principle is to apply also in the matter of sacred vestments and ornaments. Let bishops carefully remove from the house of God and from other sacred places those works of artists which are repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety, and which offend true religious sense either by depraved forms or by lack of artistic worth, mediocrity and pretense. And when churches are to be built, let great care be taken that they be suitable for the celebration of liturgical services and for the active participation of the faithful. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 124)


General principles for the restoration and promotion of the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium 5-46)

“There are more people converted from mortal sin to grace, than there are religious converted from good to better” (Dubay, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, p. 13)


Nature of Sacred Liturgy and its importance in Church life

It is unquestionably the fundamental duty of man to orientate his person and his life towards God. (Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 14)


The liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7)


The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 9)


The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret; yet more, according to the teaching of the Apostle, he should pray without ceasing. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 12)


Promotion of liturgical instruction and active participation

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14)


Reform of the Sacred Liturgy

“How can our lives be completely transformed from ugliness to beauty and personal fulfillment?” (Dubay, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, p. 15)


In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it. In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 21)


Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 33)


“Christendom is not a societal state gained once for all but rather an ideal never fully achieved, one that needs renewing, strengthening, and correcting at every turn” (From Christendom to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age, loc. 307-308)


Preaching some points of reflection based on these texts:

https://anchor.fm/nicholas-sheehy/episodes/Rebuilding-like-Nehemiah-e1mc5sh


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