Introduction to Colossians
This letter is addressed to a congregation at Colossae in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor, east of Ephesus. At the time of writing, Paul had not visited there. The community had apparently been established by Epaphras of Colossae. Problems, however, had arisen, brought on by teachers who emphasized Christ’s relation to the universe (cosmos). Their teachings stressed angels; “principalities and powers,”, which were connected with astral powers and cultic practices and rules about food and drink and ascetical disciplines. These teachings, Paul insists, detract from the person and work of Christ for salvation. Such teachings are but “shadows”; Christ is “reality”. For help in dealing with these problems that the new teachers posed at Colossae, Epaphras sought out Paul, who was then imprisoned. Paul, without entering into debate over the existence of angelic spirits or their function, simply affirms that Christ possesses the sum total of redemptive power and that the spiritual renewal of the human person occurs through contact in baptism with the person of Christ, who died and rose again. It is unnecessary for the Christian to be concerned about placating spirits or avoiding imagined defilement through ascetical practices in regard to food and drink. True Christian asceticism consists in the conquering of personal sins and the practice of love of neighbor in accordance with the standard set by Christ. Paul commends the community as a whole; this seems to indicate that, though the Colossians have been under pressure to adopt the false doctrines, they have not yet succumbed. The apostle expresses his prayerful concern for them. His preaching has cost him persecution, suffering, and imprisonment, but he regards these as reflective of the sufferings of Christ, a required discipline for the sake of the gospel. His instructions to the Christian family and to slaves and masters require a new spirit of reflection and action. Love, obedience, and service are to be rendered “in the Lord”. Colossians follows the outline of a typical Pauline letter. It is distinguished by the poetic lines concerning who Christ is and what Christ means in creation and redemption. Paul interprets the relation between the body of Christ, which he insists is the church, and the world or cosmos to be one not simply of Christ’s preexistence and rule but one of missionary advance into the world by the spreading of the word. In this labor of the missionary body of Christ, Paul as a minister plays a prime part in bringing Christ and the gospel as hope to the Gentiles. To “every creature under heaven” the word is to be proclaimed, so that everyone receives Christ, is established in faith, and walks in Christ.
SEPTEMBER 24 Ember Saturday
Colossians, Chapter 3, Verse 22
Slaves, obey your human masters in everything, not only when being watched, as currying favor, but in simplicity of heart, FEARING the Lord.
Paul reminds the Colossians as he did the Ephesians that we serve Christ not the rulers of this world but because the rulers are also sons of God we should obey them.
One of my greatest challenges mentally and physically was when I was a member of a crew of engineers that finished the construction of the South Pole Station. I recorded my service there in a book entitled, “The Ice is Nice and Chee Chee is Peachy.”
Ember Saturday of September-Commemoration of Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles (both of which occur in the Jewish calendar around this time), two important foreshadowing’s of the Christ event. The church reminds us of the profound importance of total conversion.
Meditation: Ember Saturday, A Day for expiation and thanksgiving! This excerpt from Pius Parsch is based on the 1962 Missal. The current Missal does not include special propers and readings for Ember Days.
1. Holy Mass (Venite). Ember Saturday is the official thanksgiving day for all the blessings of the past quarter-year. Especially in autumn when we garner the fruits of nature should we be more conscious of God’s Providence both in the temporal and spiritual orders. In ancient times today’s Mass served as a thanksgiving sacrifice and as a renewals of the Christian covenant with God. The text presumes that the Ember days are the Christian counterpart to the Old Testament feasts of Atonement and Tabernacles, highlighting penance and and gratitude respectively. The liturgical celebration, observed during the night between Saturday and Sunday and of obligation for all the faithful, was unusually festive. The faithful gathered at St. Peter’s for an entrance song the Invitatory (Psalm 94) was sung. The first four Lessons belonged specifically to the night-vigil and formed a greeting worthy of the enthroned King. The Readings tap the marrow of the Ember celebration, its connection with the Jewish feasts of the seventh month, Yom Kippur and the feast of Tabernacles. The autumn Ember days are days of penance for past failings and of gratitude for the harvest (and redemption); such too is the spiritual import of the Lessons. The first reviews the Mosaic legislation concerning the Day of Atonement, the second concerning the feast of Tabernacles, Israel’s great thanksgiving feast.
The two Graduals echo their respective Lessons; the first “Forgive” (Day of Atonement), the second, “How lovely are Thy tabernacles” (feast of Tabernacles). The third and fourth Lessons, from the prophets Micheas and Zacharias, are comforting messages in which God reaffirms His readiness to forgive the sins of His people and to grant them good things provided they remain faithful. God is also concerned over the manner in which we fast: “The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness and a great solemnity!” By which our Ember days, of course, are meant. The Orations offer God our festive fast and plead forgiveness. As on other Ember Saturdays, the fifth Lesson is already part of the morning service; the assembled faithful are praying Lauds; the three youths in the fiery furnace prefigure the resurrection of Christ and of Christians.
In the Epistle St. Paul shows how the ceremonies of the old covenant were types of the new; our day of atonement is Good Friday when Christ, the divine High Priest, entered the most holy sanctuary of heaven with His own Blood and wrought eternal redemption; every Mass is Good Friday repeated. In the Tract we chant the shortest Laud psalm as we express our gratefulness for God’s merciful work of redemption and HIs fidelity in fulfilling the prophecies.
Presently the High Priest Himself appears, first “teaching on the Sabbath” (in the Foremass), then offering Himself (in the Oblation). The unfruitful “fig tree in the orchard” and the “bowed-down woman” are the faithful. God is the landlord, Christ the pleading gardener; till now we have been unfruitful.
We also resemble the bowed-down woman; wholly taken up with earthy concerns, too often we are “unable to look upward”; but on this Christian Sabbath, Christ seeks “to free us from the bonds of Satan” and make us spiritually “erect.” Thus the Gospel insinuates the workings of grace in today’s holy Sacrifice.
At the sacrificial Banquet we once more recall the institution of the feast of Tabernacles as a remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt and the wanderings through the wilderness—for the Eucharist is the fulfillment of those two historical events by providing deliverance from sin and the true Manna from heaven. A classic, thought-packed Postcommunion: May the sacramental energy of the Eucharist realize its power in us, and may we one day enjoy face to face what now we see in a veiled manner. Three realities are noted: the first is the sign—this shows the sacrament. Underneath the sign is hidden the second reality, the sacrament’s efficacy—what the sacraments contain. And lastly, the rerun veritas, the future unveiling.
2. A “Spiritual Renewal” Day. For a “day of recollection” no better meditation points could be found than those in the Lessons of today’s Ember Mass. Of the two areas of thought proper to the formulary, viz., the Ember festivity is the Christian “Day of Atonement” and the Christian Feast of Tabernacles (or thanksgiving day at harvest time), let us pursue the former in some detail.
a) The Old Testament type. The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, was the great penitential observance of Mosaic Law, Israel’s “confession day.” With us “penance days” are not feast days, but among the Jews it was otherwise; Yom Kippur was a day of strict rest, absolutely no type of work was permitted and the spirit of the occasion was festive, celebrabitis. The day’s liturgy exemplified the nation’s effort to expiate sin; on this one day of the year, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies with sacrificial blood and sprinkle the ark of the covenant in atonement for his own and his people’s sins. Meanwhile the people did penance through fasting, humbling themselves before Yahweh.
b) The New Testament fulfillment. Mosaic festivals were shadows which took on flesh and blood in the Church of Christ. Good Friday was the real, the unique day of atonement in the sight of God. How well St. Paul affirmed this truth in the Epistle of today’s Mass: “Christ appeared as the high priest of coming (Messianic) blessings. He entered the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands (i.e., heavenly in nature) not with the blood of goats and steers but with His own blood—once and for all He entered the (heavenly) Holy of Holies—after He had effected an eternal redemption (i.e., one with lasting effects in contrast to the annually repeated Jewish day of atonement).” For the sacrifice on the Cross constituted the perfect reconciliation of God with mankind; and every holy Mass, as it renders present that sacrifice on Golgotha, is Yom Kippur par excellence.
Every Sunday then would be the Christian atonement feast. But because we Christians are so irresponsive and dull to the inner nature of spiritual realities, holy Church introduced special expiation days during the course of the Church year. Among these are Ember days. Ember Saturdays, particularly September Ember Saturday, have preserved best this original spirit. Anyone who seeks to develop his spiritual life on a liturgical basis would have to use the Ember days during the four seasons as times of genuine spiritual renewal. The peculiar means of keeping these days is evident from the liturgy itself—acts of penance and fasting, confession of sin, humbling ourselves before God and neighbor, and nevertheless rejoicing, in the best sense of the word. Our conduct would exemplify the prophet’s statement (fourth Lesson), “The fast proper to the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months (i.e., the four Ember weeks) should mean joy and exultation to the house of Judah (viz,, Catholics) and high festival; you only need to love truth (obedience) and peace.”
c) Application. God appeals directly to my heart in the Gospel. The two parables, one in word and one in sign, should move me deeply. I am that barren fig tree. The infinitely just God is the landlord, our Savior the pleading caretaker. If God should summon me to His judgement seat today (the command to destroy the tree), would there be any “fruit”? To what extent would I resemble the barren fig tree? Why does it occupy ground? But Christ intercedes, says a kindly word in my behalf: “Perhaps there will be some return—next crop! If not, it can then be cut down.” The coming quarter-year mark must mark a change, genuine improvement.
The parable in sign is equally instructive. My soul is so badly bowed down to earth, it find “looking upwards” toward heavenly realities extremely painful. Christ must make me stand erect again. The coming season as no other is the season of hope, of preparation for the parousia, of longing for the heavenly Jerusalem, of expectation for the returning Lord. Jesus, have mercy. Free me from stooping down to the earthly, the sensual. Straighten me out for heaven. Now! Jesus, have mercy.
—Excerpted from Pius Parsch, Year of Grace, Volume 5.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
PART TWO: THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY
SECTION TWO-THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH
CHAPTER FOUR OTHER LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS
1677 Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.
1678 Among the sacramentals blessings occupy an important place. They include both praise of God for his works and gifts, and the Church's intercession for men that they may be able to use God's gifts according to the spirit of the Gospel.
1679 In addition to the liturgy, Christian life is nourished by various forms of popular piety, rooted in the different cultures. While carefully clarifying them in the light of faith, the Church fosters the forms of popular piety that express an evangelical instinct and a human wisdom and that enrich Christian life.
· Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus