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Wednesday 15 December 2021

Mystagogy VI - Art, Architecture and the power of Gothic churches to communicate the Gospel

The following link is to a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 about the beauty of gothic churches and their role in the mystagogy of saints, art architecture.

Gothic Churches

Saturday 11 December 2021

ADVENT III C, 2021 - Homily STM, Toronto


We hear in today’s Gospel that God's people are “filled with expectation.” The crowd gathered around John the Baptist believed that he might be the Messiah whom they’ve been waiting for to free them from the power of sin and Rome. Three times we hear their question: “What then should we do?”


The Messiah’s coming requires everyone to choose—to “repent”. That’s John’s message and it will be the message of Jesus too (Lk 3:3; 5:32; 24:47).  “Repentance” as we have already heard this Advent, is translated from the Greek word, metanoia(literally, “change of mind”). However, repentance is a twofold change or turning. It is “turning” away from sin (Ezekiel 3:19; 18:30) and then turning toward God (Sir 17:20–21).


This “turning” is more than what a teacher might call an attitude adjustment. It means a radical life change. It requires “good fruits as evidence of our repentance” (Luke 3:8).  That’s why John tells the crowds, the soldiers and tax collectors they must prove their faith through works of charity, hope, honesty, and justice.


In today’s Mass, each of us is called to stand in that crowd and hear the “good news” of John the Baptist’s call to repentance. In this mystagogy, i.e. this learning through the sacramental mysteries of our faith, we examine our lives, asking from our hearts as the crowd asked: “What should we do?” Our repentance springs not from fear of coming wrath (Luke 3:7–9) but from a joyful sense of the nearness of our saving God.


This theme resounds through today’s readings: “Rejoice! “. . . Gaudete! Rejoice ye! The Lord is near. So, on this Third Sunday of Advent the liturgical colour is rose signifying our joy at the news of the coming Messiah. Have no anxiety we are told in today’s Epistle. The Lord is coming amongst us. “Rejoice, in the Lord always, again I say: Rejoice.


In today’s First Reading, we hear echoes of the angel’s Annunciation to Blessed Mary. The prophet’s words are very close to the angel’s greeting (Luke 1:28–31). Mary is the Daughter Zion—the favoured one of God, told not to fear but to rejoice that the Lord is with her, “a mighty Saviour.”


She brings us joy. For in her the Messiah draws near to us, as John the Baptist had promised: “One mightier than I is coming.”


Zephaniah 3:14–18              

Isaiah 12:2–6            

Philippians 4:4–7                 

Luke 3:10–18

Friday 10 December 2021


Praying the O Antiphons of Advent 

During the final days of Advent, we focus on the glorious nature of the coming Messiah. This anticipation is marked by something special in the prayers in the Breviary.

Antiphons are short sentences sung or chanted before the recitation of a psalm or canticle.

The antiphons of Evening Prayer which we see in the week before Christmas welcome the birth of the Saviour by heralding one of His resplendent Biblical titles along with a special petition related to that title.

It is a liturgical tradition that was started in the earliest centuries of the Church—one that has continued to the present day in monasteries and convents, and even in the homes of the Catholic faithful who make portions of the Divine Office part of their daily prayers.

You might recognize these antiphons from the beautiful Advent hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel."

Icon of the Nativity


The O Antiphons are particularly special. These seven antiphons are prayed immediately before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer in the week before Christmas.

Each antiphon begins with the exclamation "O", which is why they are popularly called the "O Antiphons."


Each O Antiphon emphasizes a unique prophetic title of the soon-to-be-born King of Kings, as foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the prophet Isaiah:

WisdomLord of IsraelRoot of JesseKey of DavidRadiant DawnKing of All Nations, and Emmanuel.

DIVINE WORSHIP: DAILY OFFICE (DW:DO) -- The official Prayer Book of the Ordinariates -- has the full English texts of the O Antiphons to be said or sung at Evensong before the Magnificat (beginning on p.294 of DW:DO, North American edition). 

These antiphons cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the "Octave before Christmas," from December 17th to the 23rd. (December 24 is Evensong of the Christmas Vigil, and does not have an O Antiphon.)

The ancient monks who first assembled the O Antiphons were very creative with the order in which they were prayed. If you take the first letter of each antiphon (in the Latin) and read them from last to first, the word ERO CRAS is spelled, which translates: "Tomorrow I will come."


Excerpted from an article by Z. Maier:

What does full participation mean?

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy offers little explanation as to what “full, conscious, and active participation” consists of, other than that it is inherent in the very nature of what liturgy is. 

Participation is primarily internal

Active participation in the liturgy is primarily internal, no matter how much such external manifestations may be concrete indications of what is happening within. Active participation has to do with a kind of mindful engagement in the rites, an attending to the words and gestures, the symbols . . . the space, the season. Without interior participation the rites are empty formalism. 


What is needed to achieve participation?


Preparation for the Sunday readings

Pope John Paul II touched on this issue in his 1998 apostolic letter, Dies Domini: The Day of the Lord.  In it he suggested that in order for the faithful to benefit from hearing the Word of God in the liturgy each Sunday they must take steps to prepare themselves in order to draw life from its proclamation. Of particular benefit, he said, is bringing people together beforehand to reflect on the Word of God they will hear proclaimed.

Faith re-encountered

Many parishes have among their people a small group of “cradle” Catholics who have discovered a whole new understanding of their faith when they were asked to sponsor someone wanting to join the Church and participated in the journey with the newcomer. 

Mystagogy reintroduced 

It is in the context of reception that the idea of mystagogy, a period of post-baptismal catechesis, was re-introduced into the current church experience.  The word mystagogy derives from a Greek word meaning “teaching of mystery.” This time of catechesis suggests, is “of great significance for both the neophytes and the rest of the faithful,” and they in turn should “derive from it a renewal of inspiration and of outlook” (p. 145).

Mystagogical reflection in the early Church

Both the catechumenate and mystagogical preaching were at their height in and around the fourth century. Reflections on liturgy by teachers of the time – Cyril of Jerusalem (+386), John Chysostom (+407), Augustine of Hippo (+430), among others – are part of the Church’s legacy. It is from one such mystagogical reflection that we have the often-quoted words of Augustine: “If you are the body and members of Christ, then what is laid on the Lord’s table is the sacrament of what you yourselves are, and it is the sacrament of what you are that you receive.” 

Mystagogical preaching 

Judging from the Church’s experience of that time, mystagogical preaching is an important part of ongoing catechesis. The call is made to the baptized to enter into mission, to service in the world. At the end of every liturgical celebration, the dismissal rite sends the community forth in the service of Christ. 

A mystagogical approach needed to engage the faithful

Making the liturgy accessible to “head and heart” is done best by a mystagogical approach. There are several characteristics of mystagogy as re-introduced in current church practice that make it particularly appropriate:

  • It is for all the baptized and not just for the neophytes; 
  • Mystagogy is a lifelong process involving a commitment to learning and deepening one’s understanding and commitment that is never finished; 
  • The whole of the community’s sacramental life is appropriate material for mystagogical reflection; 
  • Mystagogy is focused on personal experience, a sense of an encounter with God, the many layers of meaning in liturgical texts and symbols, and sharing this experience in order to be enriched; 
  • The liturgy itself is the first teacher describing who the baptized Christian is. 


Thursday 9 December 2021

Mystagogy III - 2021

The following is excerpted from an article by Evan Ponton: 


paragraph 1075  

Liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ (It is "mystagogy.") by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the "sacraments" to the "mysteries." 

Such catechesis is to be presented by local and regional catechisms. This Catechism, which aims to serve the whole Church in all the diversity of her rites and cultures, will present what is fundamental and common to the whole Church in the liturgy as mystery and as celebration (Section One), and then the seven sacraments and the sacramentals (Section Two).

What is Mystagogy?

Our faith needs mystagogy first and foremost because of one simple reason: we celebrate and proclaim a mystery.

It is important to recognize that for some people, the idea of religious “mystery” conjures up images of a Da Vinci Code-esque Church shrouded in secrecy, New Age spiritualism, or even a pre-scientific belief in “magic.” 

But the sacraments do not initiate us into a special club or secret society. Through them, we are made participants in the life of Jesus Christ.

Faith begins and ends in mystery, most especially the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, “the central mystery of Christian faith and life . . . the source of all other mysteries of faith” (CCC 234). 

In the scriptures, liturgy, and sacraments, we truly encounter and participate in the Triune life of God. But no matter how intelligent or insightful we are, we will never fully wrap our minds around God’s glory or totally experience it with our five senses.

Mystagogy comes from the Greek word meaning, “to lead through the mysteries.” The Catechism describes mystagogy as a “liturgical catechesis that aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ” (CCC 1075). 

Mystagogy leads us from the external signs and rituals of the liturgy to the inner, spiritual meaning of the divine life they signify. Mystagogy is the form of catechesis that helps us unpack and explore the spiritual treasures contained in the sacraments by continuously reflecting on their meaning and significance in our personal lives of faith.

Mystagogy was the way the early Church Fathers embraced and trained new Christians in the practices and beliefs of the faith. Perhaps the most well known teacher of mystagogy was St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386 CE), who delivered a famous series of sermons, known as “mystagogic catecheses,” during the time of Lent through the Easter Octave. 

But mystagogy isn’t just for the newly baptized; it is the way every Catholic can continually deepen their relationship with Christ by daily drawing on the grace of the sacraments.

Significance for the New Evangelization

Just as Catholics are rediscovering the importance of the “kerygma” (Greek for “proclamation”) for evangelization, mystagogy is incredibly important in our approach to catechesis in the New Evangelization. 

Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “Through catechesis the Gospel kerygma is gradually deepened . . . . and channeled toward Christian practice in the Church and the world” (Catechesi Tradendae, n. 25). This catechesis is accomplished by means of  mystagogical reflection. 

Living the Mystery Daily

Ongoing mystagogy is important because our relationship with the sacraments changes as we grow and mature as individuals and meet new life challenges and circumstances. 

In turn, the sacraments really change us. Pope Benedict XVI said, “The mature fruit of mystagogy is an awareness that one's life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated” (Sacramentum Caritatis n. 64). 

By reflecting regularly on the sacraments, we access an incredible strength for our daily tasks.

Developing a practice of Eucharistic mystagogy can combat the routinization that often sets in to our receiving communion. 

For those who are married, or preparing for marriage, there is a mystagogy of marriage. With ongoing mystagogic reflection, you may discover new fruits of that sacrament in every season of life.

Studying theology and the Bible is often an undervalued way of developing our spiritual life. Learning about someone or something is a sign of love, and we truly become what we behold (cf 2 Cor. 3:18). Reading the great books and sermons of Catholic authors and theologians greatly expands our hearts and minds to experience the truth and depth of our faith.

The Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel is attributed as stating, “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.” Mystagogy is the path leading Christians to learn to live the mystery of our faith. I encourage you to follow the path trod by St. Cyril up through Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI in making this incredible tradition and gift called “mystagogy” a part of your life.










Room adjacent to 

St. Paul VI Audience Hall                                Thursday, 14 February 2019


The liturgical formation of the People of God. 


The task that awaits us is indeed essentially that of spreading among the People of God the splendour of the living mystery of the Lord, Who makes Himself manifest in the liturgy.


. . .  liturgical formation means first and foremost being aware of the indispensable role the liturgy holds in the Church and for the Church. And then, concretely helping the People of God to interiorize better the prayer of the Church, to love it as an experience of encounter with the Lord and with brothers who, in the light of this, rediscover its content and observe its rites.


Since the liturgy is an experience extended to the conversion of life through the assimilation of the Lord’s way of thinking and behaving, liturgical formation cannot be limited to simply offering knowledge – this is a mistake . . .  In order for the liturgy to fulfil its formative and transforming function, it is necessary that the pastors and the laity be introduced to their meaning and symbolic language, including art, song and music in the service of the mystery celebrated . . .The Catechism of the Catholic Church itself adopts the mystagogical way to illustrate the liturgy, valuing its prayers and signs. 


Mystagogy: this is a suitable way to enter the mystery of the liturgy, in the living encounter with the crucified and risen Lord. Mystagogy means discovering the new life we have received in the People of God through the Sacraments, and continually rediscovering the beauty of renewing it.


Regarding the stages of formation, we know from experience that, in addition to the initial phase, it is necessary to cultivate the ongoing formation of the clergy and laity, especially those who are involved in the ministries serving the liturgy. Formation not once, but continuing. 


Dear brothers and sisters, we are all called to deepen and revive our liturgical formation. The liturgy is in fact the main road through which Christian life passes through every phase of its growth. You therefore have before you a great and beautiful task: to work so that the People of God may rediscover the beauty of meeting the Lord in the celebration of His mysteries and, by meeting Him, have life in His name. I thank you for your efforts and I bless you, asking you to always reserve for me a place – a large one! – in your prayer.

ADVENT 2 C (Mystagogy II)

  Dec. 4, 2021 

STM Toronto

Based on Mass Readings: Baruch 5:1–9;  Psalm 126:1–6;  Philippians 1:4–6, 8–11; 

Luke 3:1–6


“I am thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.”  These are the words of St. Paul to those who are journeying with him into the Light of the Gospel. 


In the Advent readings we recall God’s saving deeds in the history of Israel and in the coming of Jesus. Our remembrance is meant to stir our faith, to fill us with confidence that, as today’s Epistle puts it, “the one who began a good work in [us] will continue to complete it” until He comes again in glory.” (Phil. 1)


Week by week the liturgy of Sunday Mass teaches us that like Israel in her exile we have been led into captivity by our sinfulness. We stand in need of healing and conversion by the Word of the Holy One as the prophet Baruch proclaims (Baruch 5:5). The lessons of salvation history teach us that, as God again and again delivered Israel, in His mercy, God will free us from our attachments to sin if we constantly turn to Him in repentance. 


In a 2008 address to cultural leaders in Paris, Pope Benedict affirmed that the Logos– the Word of God—the locus of Reason calls us to metanoia, repentance – literallymeta-noia i.e. going beyond the mind. As Pope Benedict puts it: the Logos displays his mystery through the complexity and the reality of human history.


Those who are beginning their Catholic mystagogy, their enlightening reflection on the sacraments and the mysteries of the Christian Faith have much to meditate on in the person and teaching of St. John Baptist.


John – the mystagog or proclaimer of meaning – is introduced in today’s Gospel as the last of the Prophets (Jer. 1:1–4, 11). But John is greater than the prophets (Luke 7:27). He’s preparing the way not only for the redemption of Israel but for the salvation of “all flesh,” all races and nations (Acts 28:28) through the mystery of the waters of Baptism.


St. John the Baptist quotes Isaiah (40:3) to tell us he’s come to build a   

road home for us, a way out of the darkness, the wilderness of sin and 

our alienation from God. It’s the illuminated road we follow Jesus down, a journey we make, as Baruch puts it, “rejoicing that [we’re] remembered by God . . .  For God will lead Israel (and so all of us) with joy, in the light of His glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from Him.” 


J. L.  Hodgins