On a recent trek to St. John’s University, I made my usual stop at Liturgical Press. I find myself there often when I’m on campus to see what publications have been recently released that need to find their way into my library. During my most recent visit, I picked up a fun little book entitled What''s the Smoke
For?; And Other Burning Questions about the Liturgy. Besides being drawn to this book by its catchy title, I also noticed that the author was Johan Van Parys. Johan is the Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts at The Basilica of St. mary's in Minneapolis. He is also adjunct professor at St. John’s University. In fact, he was my professor for Liturgy I and Liturgy II when I was in formation as a deacon and earning my Masters in Theology.
So every time I make it through Mass without stepping on Fr. Tim’s toes or catching myself on fire by a candle, I have Johan to thank for my preparation and training! Johan’s book is a questions-and-answer format whereby he has collected questions from curious observers of Catholicism and has attempted to answer them in a clear and concise manner. Questions such as “What’s the difference between vespers and vestments?”, “What’s with all of the sitting, standing, and kneeling?”, and “Where have the consecration bells gone?” are all answered nicely in this one publication. A passage that recently caught my attention was a question asking why Lent is so special. Johan replied that Lent is a word that comes from the Old English lencten which means springtime. It is a time of preparation and renewal. He went on to say that Lent is characterized by two major theological movements and three Lenten disciplines.
Theologically, Lent focuses on baptism. It is a time when catechumens (those wishing to become part of our Catholic tradition) prepare for Baptism at the Easter Vigil. Secondly, the catechumens are also preparing for reconciliation.
Together we all participate in the three Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We spend the Lenten season in prayerful preparation to celebrate the Resurrection. We discipline ourselves by fasting just as Jesus did for His forty days in the desert. And we embrace almsgiving in order to support “the least of my brothers and sisters” – those who are in the most need. Johan reminds us that Lent begins each year on Ash Wednesday and culminates in the Sacred Triduum leading up to Easter Sunday. On that day, we rejoice in the risen Lord!
Johan’s book provides easy-to-understand answers to some of the questions that many of us have about our Catholic tradition. I’ve provided his feedback on the question about Lent, but if you want answers to questions related to vespers, liturgical exercise and bells, you'll have to find it on your own in the book! If you’re interested in checking this book out for yourself, the book’s ISBN number is 978-0-8146-3565-0. You’ll be able to dazzle all of your friends with your knowledge of Catholicism!
Lenten Blessings, Deacon Steve
He Would Love First!
October 24, 2020
A July Faith Formation Series – Part IV – APOSTOLIC