Beauty: A Necessity in Catholic Liturgy (with Holy Art)

Some people may ask, “Is Vincent Pham (a.k.a. The Catholic Man) liturgy crazy?” Well, I think that is the case sometimes. While I love all things Catholic, there is something about the liturgy that has captivated me as a young child. I often used to do “fake” Mass at home and tried to imitate everything the priest had, from vestments to furnishings. Slowly, the “fake” Masses turned into serious matter when our pastor asked me to be the Liturgical Master of Ceremonies for major celebrations at our Parish over four years ago (a position which I still hold today), while being a part-time sacristan at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica just less than year ago. Then, just in recent years, I became interested in the Mass in “Ad Orientem” in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary form and for many years, I have been reading about liturgy, its developments, its theology, its form, its rubrics… all matters liturgical.

It was not until just recently that I came to realize how important beauty is when it comes to the liturgy. One may say, “The Mass is the Mass… you don’t need aesthetics…” While I would agree with that statement years ago, my thoughts on beauty and the liturgy really changed when I took a course called, “Beauty, Human and Divine” at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto last term. It was a first-year Foundations Seminar course that I took solely to fulfill a breadth requirement just because it has the term “Christian” in its course description. But I was wrong… it was a course that included the reading of secular texts, but had Catholic influence, including The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde), The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce) and Purgatorio (Dante Alighieri). I really had no idea what was in store for me in those texts, until I was prompted to read those texts with the themes of beauty in mind. The thread through all these texts is that of liturgical beauty.

When I stress that liturgical rubrics should be followed, pr beautiful vestments should be used, or six-candles should be used at a Solemn Mass, I am not focussing on aestheticism. Rather, when the liturgy is done correctly with the rubrics of the Church, then it is very beautiful. That beauty leads one into a sense of reverence, and then ultimately to God himself because he, in the term of Jean-Louis Chrétien, is “the Divine Artist” (see Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art, Chrétien 2003).

The beauty of the liturgy is compelling, even for non-Catholics. In Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian is attracted to the beauty of the liturgy in chapter 11 from the fabric of the dalmatic of the deacon, to the “fuming censers”. Unfortunately, he fails to have metanoia. In many cases, like the souls in Purgatorio, the beauty of the liturgy, especially that of ancient prayers lifts their eyes up to “Paradiso”.

Beautiful liturgy is liturgy done right – according to the rubrics of the Church, and celebrated in a manner that is reverent, not only by the presider, but by the people of God as a whole. When liturgy is celebrated beautifully and reverently, we exemplify the importance of the Sacred Mysteries that we celebrate.

Find celebrating beautiful liturgy to be too expensive? While there are certainly ecclesiastical furnishing companies that have very expensive items, or elaborate vestments with price tags too high, I recommend Holy Art. I have found that Holy Art’s items everywhere (at least within the Archdiocese of Toronto) from St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica to my home parish at St. Cecilia’s Church. There are also items for your “Domestic Church” as well. Holy Art boasts a whole selection of beautiful wooden statues, and especially crucifixes. The crucifix currently in my bedroom altar is from Holy Art, and my sister and I wrote a review of it on The Catholic Man Reviews blog.

The thing with Holy Art is that their items offer beauty and simplicity, all in one package with all of their items. They also sell a lot of unique liturgical finds such as a wedding ring tray, beautiful Paschal candle incense nails, and even (the most unique in my opinion), Host baking machines!

Check out Holy Art’s wide selection of Liturgical Items here.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Holy Art, in exchange for an honest review of Holy Art. This post also contains affiliate links to Amazon.ca.

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Vincent Pham's 5 Notable Moments of 2019

Where can I start when I think of when I speak of 2019? It was honestly a very busy year that in ways, turned my life around and gave me different perspectives for the new decade ahead. As 2019 winds down, as customary for the last few years now, I am going to speak about five notable moments of 2019. Why not “top 5” moments as I used to call it? After my the events of last year, I found that some events that occur during a year may not be happy events at all and is precisely the opposite. To me, notable moments during a year are moments of epiphany, when you realize and receive some sort of “revelation” about life. These events are not listed in any particular order – these events are listed after a period of reflection.

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Lectionary Reflection: Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – Year A

Lectionary Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 / Ps 128 / Col 3:12-17 / Mt 2:13-15, 19-23

“Ite Missa Est,” in its english translation, “Go, the Mass is ended,” are the common words heard, in one formula or another by a priest or deacon to conclude the Celebration of Mass. These are words of mission, these words prompt up to get up on our feet, to go out and serve the Lord. 

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Lectionary Reflection: Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, Year A, B, and C (Mass During the Day)

Lectionary Readings: Is 52:7-10 / Ps 98 / Heb 1:1-16 / Jn 1:1-18
Note: This reflection is based on the readings for Mass During the Day. Unfortunately, the Canadian Lectionary readings are not made available online for this specific set of readings. Therefore, a link leading to the American translation is used instead.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

John 1:14

The Masses of Christmas comes with a variety of readings – precisely four options provided for the four different Masses from Christmas Eve to Mass during the Day. Most of them vary between Year A, B and C. However, the readings for the Mass During the Day of December 25 remains the same throughout the Lectionary Cycle. Therefore, if you go to Christmas Day Mass, the excerpt of the first chapter of John is read, the Gospel of the “Logos”.

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Lectionary Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

Lectionary Readings: Is 7:10-14 / Ps 24 / Rom 1:1-7 / Mt 1:18-24

Since the beginning of Advent, we have been hearing about the “second coming” of Christ in glory. This may sound overwhelming and perhaps even makes us afraid. I admit, sometimes thinking and hearing about the last days makes me scared. 

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Lectionary Reflection: Third Sunday of Advent, Year A

Lectionary Readings: Is 35:1-6a / Ps 146 / Jam 5:7-10 / Mt 11:2-11

“Come, come, Emmanuel! Son of God appear. Heaven and earth, rejoice! Salvation is drawing near.” That is the refrain of Steve Angrisano’s Advent Hymn, Emmanuel. However, the refrain beautifully sums up the themes of the lectionary readings for this Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudate Sunday, the Sunday of Joy. 

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Lectionary Reflection: Second Sunday of Advent, Year A

Lectionary Readings: Is 26:1-6 / Ps 72 / Rom 15:4-9 / Mt 3:1-12

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Is 40:3, Mt 3:3) These words of the prophet Isaiah are echoed again in Matthew’s Gospel today. The theme of preparation is apparent in the lectionary readings of the first two weeks of Advent. While it is obvious that the readings are geared towards the preparation of the season of Christmas, these readings provide us not with aggressive warnings, but rather gentle messages, reminders on how to prepare the “way of the Lord”, and in our context, for the second coming of Jesus when he comes the second time in glory. 

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