Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A "Soaring Welcome"

Appearances from Sacramento are that quite the welcome liturgy was had yesterday for Coadjutor-Bishop Jaime Soto.

From the new arrival's homily:
While I am honored by this beautiful Mass of Welcome, it is important for me as well as for all of us to remember that our time is best spent in preparing for another coming. Yesterday’s Sunday readings and those we can anticipate for the coming weeks turn our attention to the approach of the Lord Jesus and the coming of His kingdom. To warmly welcome him is to open the door to salvation and grace. His arrival brings “glad tidings to the lowly, heals the brokenhearted, and proclaims liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”

The approaching kingdom promised by Christ brightly looms over our happy gathering this afternoon and keeps us mindful of why we do this. Our days together have a purpose and our efforts are charged with a mission, to announce the glad tidings of the kingdom and prepare for the coming of the king of glory. The responsorial psalm gave voice to this task: “Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.”
This is not a divination about what is to come. It comes from our understanding of what we do right now. The Eucharist is an eschatological event. The Book of the Apocalypse unfolds before us. We welcome the one for whom we hope and the Lord Jesus sets before us a taste of the kingdom for which we long. Our grains of wheat have together become the one Body of Christ, the Bread of life broken and shared. The Lord Jesus fulfills his promise made in the gospel today: “Where I am, there also will my servant be.” We are now where the Lord wants us to be: in his presence, around the altar of gladness and joy, before the throne of the Lamb of God.

In the Eucharist then, we both welcome and worship the King of Glory, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For this reason both welcome and worship are defining elements of our faith. We live to welcome and worship the Lord who stands knocking at the door of our heart. The rituals we perform in this elegant sanctuary built to shelter the Body of Christ, are a rehearsal for that final and eternal encounter with the crucified King of Glory. These signs and gestures also awaken our hearts and accustom our eyes to see the King in those encounters less solemn but no less sacred: our brothers and sisters wearied and unwelcomed by the world — the immigrant, the incarcerated, those living with AIDS, and the homeless. The Eucharistic manner calms our fears so that those who come to us are not a threat to avoid but an opportunity to welcome and serve. The rituals of worship incline our souls to see and revere the sacredness of life. Our hands, opened humbly to reach the Lord in communion, dispose us to receive and hold in like manner all those “little ones” whom the King sends in his name.

Of these there are many encounters that may be unplanned and unexpected but none should be unwanted, especially the unborn child who comes in innocence and hope.

This is a bold posture, to hope and hold the kingdom of God, to live reverently in the spirit of welcome and worship both here in this sacred space as well as the public square. Some might call this an imposition, an unwanted and unwelcomed intrusion of a particular creed. For this reason, we must take to heart the words of Paul to Timothy: “to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord.” We have “glad tidings” to bring that spring from our faith. What we offer is also reasonable and beneficial to the common good of all. We come not to impose but to welcome the truth and worship the goodness of God revealed in the human person. This is a task we are eager to share with men and women of all creeds.
Fulltext is similarly posted of Soto's Sunday night Vespers talk... snip:
I will admit to the nervous clumsiness that comes with such first encounters. The awkward rituals of meeting, greeting, introducing. I am sure we will all do fine, you bringing the best manners of the Valley and me, trying my best not to embarrass my mother. (I hear her voice chiding me, “Do you want people to think you don’t have a mother.”) I am very grateful Bishop Weigand and his coworkers as well as the clergy of Sacramento all who have warmly welcomed me to Sacramento. I sincerely appreciate Bishops Tod Brown and Dominic Luong as well as the clergy and people of Orange who made the trip north to turn me over to the proper authorities.

What saves us, what encourages and consoles both you and I at this happy juncture, are the rituals of prayer and praise, the holy habits that over time have honed our rough edges and made the clumsy moments graceful. Through the years the sacred psalms and scriptures have hollowed and hallowed our hearts with their familiar rhythms and rhymes bringing the echoed voices of our treasured, ancient traditions while preparing us to taste the kingdom still to come.

By these rituals God has encouraged us and consoled us through the years. So heartened by this tender divine prodding our continued recitation prolongs his abiding consolation for those drawn and entranced by the beauty of all God’s people praising and praying in one voice.

This will always be what is most attractive and persuasive about our faith, how we give praise and pray to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement. Whether it be the holy rites of our sacred temples, the rituals of our homes or the routines of our day we encourage and console one another with the same grace we have received from Jesus Christ. We bring God’s graceful way to a graceless, awkward and often heartless world....

The reverence and devotion with which we now meet each other and greet each other can be — should be — the character and quality of our days together. This is my prayer — while we worship together, work together, study and pray the scriptures together, discern and deliberate together God’s call, work hand in hand to bring God’s saving charity to others, strive together for a just world where peace prospers — may we always reverence one another as brothers and sisters, savoring the joy and encouragement of our communion in Christ.
And the local Bee buzzed...
More than 1,300 invited guests packed the pews at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in downtown Sacramento, including 100 priests and 40 bishops who entered the church in the opening processional. Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles also was in attendance....
Soto, who played Mass in his backyard with his siblings and told his parents he wanted to be a priest when he was in the second grade, appeared moved by the remarks from church officials.
During the ceremony, he often looked over at his parents – celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary today – sitting in the front row.

After thanking officials, Soto delivered his homily and spoke about the work ahead.

"Our days together have a purpose and our efforts are charged with a mission, to announce the glad tidings of the kingdom and prepare for the king of glory," said Soto, who spoke in English and Spanish.

After Communion, church leaders who have known Soto for years talked about the activist priest.

"The church of Orange is gifting you, church of Sacramento, with one of our very, very best," said Bishop Tod D. Brown of the Orange County Diocese.

The somber ceremony had moments of levity. Weigand joked about Soto coming to "Superior" California while Brown answered he had a difficult time thinking what was inferior about Orange.

Mahony talked about Soto's gifts and then mentioned a joke about a coadjutor's morning greeting to his superior: "Beloved Bishop, how are you feeling?"

The overall feeling of the ceremony was celebratory. The Mass, rich with tradition, impressed many of those in attendance who said they are looking forward to working with the new bishop.
...the paper also kicks in an impressive slideshow.

PHOTOS: Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee