Biblically “exile” refers to the fact that, after Original Sin, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden (cf Gen 3:24). Hence we are exiled from there and live in this “Valley of Tears,” another expression that occurs in the same prayer.
Since the death and resurrection of Jesus we can also say that “exile” refers to the fact that we are not living in our true home. For Christ has opened the way not merely back to the Garden, but to heaven. Heaven is now our true homeland. This sinful and suffering world is not our home, and thus our time here can be considered a kind of exile as we await our summons to “come up higher” to our true and heavenly homeland.
Finally, speaking of this world as an exile, valley of tears is a sober recognition that life in this world is often hard. And though we may ask God for certain relief, true and lasting joy can only come when we leave this exile for our true home with God.
I attend a parish named Immaculate Conception. Within the sanctuary, there is a statue of our Lady holding the child Jesus and a large painting of Mary behind the altar. I think the altar area should remain wholly dedicated to Christ. Am I wrong?
Your concerns are not without merit. While there are no rules absolutely forbidding images of the saints in the sanctuary, current norms and customs speak of the sanctuary area of the Church as emphasizing the altar, the ambo (pulpit), and the chair. There should also be, on or near the altar, a crucifix. Further, the tabernacle, in most parish settings, is usually in a prominent place, either within or very near the sanctuary (cf Built of Stones, #s 54,57,74-80).
That said, while images of Mary and the Saints in the central axis of the sanctuary are not common in modern Church design, it is not absolutely forbidden either. There may be some merit to have the patron of the parish Church, in your case Mary, prominently displayed (as many older churches do) somewhere near the front, presuming it does not overly dominate the sanctuary.
Perhaps a spiritual way to accept what you consider less than ideal, is to remember that we do gather with the saints at Mass. Scripture says We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1). There may also be benefit in recalling the description of the early Church at prayer: They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus (cf Acts 1:14).
Always remember that we pray with the saints, and they with us; we do not worship them.
I am a Veteran and currently debating with my pastor who refuses to allow the American Flag to be displayed in the front of the Church. He has it back in the vestibule. Are there rules about this?
There are no specific rules about flags in either the liturgical books or the Code of Canon Law.
However, some time ago, the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy encouraged pastors not to place the flag within the sanctuary itself, which is for the altar, the ambo, the presidential chair and the tabernacle. They recommended an area be found outside the sanctuary, or in the vestibule of the church. But these are recommendations only and it remains for the diocesan bishop to determine regulations in this matter.
So, your pastor is on fairly good ground. Patriotism remains an important virtue for Christians. But how that patriotism is expressed in the location of the flag can admit of some local differences, and should conform well to liturgical norms as well as pastoral solicitude.
The Church teaches that Peter was given primacy amongst the apostles, yet Peter considered himself a “fellow elder” and did not view himself as one superior to the other apostles. So aren’t the local churches to be led by a plurality of elders?
The text, which you cite is 1 Peter 5:1, wherein Peter exhorts the leaders of the Church to be zealous shepherds. But what you see as equivalency may simply be fraternity.
For example, when my Bishop writes a letter to the priests, he begins, “My dear brother Priests…” Now the bishop is a priest, and shares that in common, as a brother, with all the priests of this diocese. But his salutation is not a declaration that there is no difference, or that he does not also have authority over us as the Bishop.
In the letter you cite, Peter begins by writing of himself, Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1). Hence your point that he thought of himself merely as a fellow elder does not seem supported.
Further, the Catholic Church’s position on the primacy of Peter does not rise or fall based on one text. Our teaching is based on a number of foundational texts and also on Sacred Tradition.
Thus we see that Christ singles Peter out and calls him “the Rock,” giving him the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, a sign of special authority (Matt 16:19). He also assigns Peter with the special role of uniting the other apostles, when the devil would sift (divide) them like wheat (Lk 22:31-32). Peter is also singled out by Jesus at the lakeside and told to “Tend my Sheep” (John 21).
In Acts we see Peter living the office Christ gave him. He is always listed first among the Apostles. He preaches the first sermon. He convenes the brethren and directs the replacement of Judas. He works the first miracle, pronounces sentence on Ananias and Sapphira, is led by the Spirit to baptize the first Gentiles, and presides over the Council of Jerusalem, bringing unity to its divided deliberations.
Relying not only on a wide biblical tradition, the Catholic Church also bases her understanding of Peter’s office on the broad and consistent testimony of the Fathers of the Church and other witnesses to the practice of Christian antiquity. These sources attest that Peter and his successors were accorded special dignity. Their authority to rule over the whole Church in a unique and singular way is confirmed by these sources.
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