Week of May 26th

Dear Parish Family and Friends,

I would like to welcome you to our new website!

Please use this resource as a way to check out what’s happening around the Parish.

Next week, Sunday, June 9th (Solemnity of Pentecost) you are all invited to my Installation Mass at 12:00pm which will be celebrated by Bishop Caggiano. Following the Mass there will be a reception in the Parish Gym. I hope to see you all there as I begin my ministry as the 13th Pastor of Church of the Assumption.

God’s blessing to your all,

Fr. Cyrus

April 14, 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With the celebration of Palm Sunday, the Church begins the most sacred days of the liturgical year. Holy Week, in its name and in the mysteries it celebrates, is designed to open our hearts and minds to the truth of the Lord’s great mercy and our need for the power of the Cross. We begin the week with the reading of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Moments later, we will reflect on the story of His Passion and death on the Cross. These twin Gospels set the stage for what this week is all about. Today, we begin to walk with Jesus as He brings to fulfillment the plan God made for the salvation of fallen humanity.

Monday is “Reconciliation Monday” throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport. Several parishes throughout Fairfield County have been designated as locations where the Sacrament of Confession will be available from 3 PM – 9 PM. In Fairfield, St. Pius X and Our Lady of the Assumption are the two designated parishes. Assumption Church in Westport is also a site for these confessions. I encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful sacrament of God’s mercy!

Holy Thursday is the day on which we celebrate the Institution of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood. We begin with Morning Prayer at 8:30 AM in the Chapel. Later in the morning, the priests of the Diocese gather with the Bishop for the Chrism Mass, during which the Bishop consecrates the oil to be used throughout the year in sacramental celebrations. In the evening, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (at 7:30 PM) brings us to the upper room with Jesus and the Apostles. We witness Jesus establish the Eucharist as the Church’s nourishing spiritual food, and His establishment of the priesthood for the sake of service in the Church and the celebration of the Eucharistic mysteries. At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist is brought to an altar of repose, representing the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed with the Apostles before being arrested. I encourage you to participate in the ancient tradition of visiting the altars of repose at various churches in the area after the Mass.

Good Friday marks the day of the Lord’s Passion. It is a day of fasting and abstinence. We go with Jesus from arrest to trial to Calvary to tomb. It is a day of profound reflection and prayer. We begin with Morning Prayer at 8:30 AM in the Chapel. We will pray the Stations of the Cross at noon in the Church. At 3 PM, the Lord’s Passion is celebrated, with the veneration of the Cross. This year, we have moved the celebration of Tenebrae to Good Friday evening at 7 PM. Tenebrae is a beautiful liturgical practice rooted in monastic life, during which we prayerfully reflect on the words of Scripture relating to Jesus’ Passion as the darkness of night grows more profound.

Holy Saturday again begins with Morning Prayer at 8:30 AM in the Chapel. At 10 AM, we will have a special blessing of Easter baskets and food. Spiritually, it is a day of waiting and expectation. We await the good news of Christ’s Resurrection. The Sacrament of Confession will be available from 2 PM – 4 PM.  The Easter Vigil, the most important liturgical celebration of the entire year, begins at 8 PM. During this beautiful Mass, we proclaim the Resurrection and those who have been preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation are received in to the life of the Church. If you have never experienced the Easter Vigil, don’t miss it this year!

May your Holy Week truly draw you closer to our Lord’s merciful Heart and be for you a source of grace and sanctification!

Peace,

Fr. Sam

April 7, 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

While throwing stones may be fun at the beach, the same activity undertaken with a human target is far less amusing. We hear in the Gospel this weekend about a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery and the scribes and Pharisees who are ready to inflict the punishment prescribed by law for this sin. This situation is no joke, but rather a literal matter of life and death. The serious nature of the charge, the punishment, the impact of the sin – all laid before Jesus who understands the import of the moment.

At first, it may seem strange that Jesus bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. Compared to other situations brought to Jesus, this is an abnormal response. In ordinary circumstances, Jesus says something almost immediately, gives an instruction, poses a question, offers some healing. But here He pauses, takes a physical posture markedly different from both the woman and her accusers, and it is only in response to repeated questions from the Pharisees that he speaks. Pay attention to His posture, first. The woman has been made to stand in the middle, surrounded by accusers who also stand. Jesus bends to the ground, touching the ground with his finger. The effect is two-fold. Jesus, God-Incarnate, writes in the dust, just as God formed man from the dust of the earth, and thus Jesus’ posture symbolizes His authority and power as creator and sole judge. On a human level, the woman made to stand in the middle is able to look down on Jesus, who by lowering Himself, has been removed from the circle of accusers. Just so does Jesus lower Himself for all of us – He enters our human condition, not to accuse us of sin, of betraying the purpose for which God created us from dust, but rather that we might stand, even in our sinfulness, and have hope of mercy.

As the Pharisees question Him, our Lord waits patiently. His words, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” does two things. First, it reminds the Pharisees that, for all their good intentions and knowledge, they are sinners. Second, it confirms for the woman that she is also guilty of sin. The penalty for the sin of adultery according to the Mosaic law is stoning, and Jesus allows that penalty, provided a sinless person is able to throw a stone. No one in this story (except Jesus) is innocent. As the accusers walk away, Jesus makes another change to His physical posture.

Now alone with the accused woman, Jesus stands. Whereas He had lowered Himself as a sign that He was not an accuser, now He stands to look the woman in the eye. Our Lord, the only one with the right to throw a stone, looks her in the eye to ask if she has been condemned. Then, showing His mastery of and authority over the law, Jesus refuses to condemn her and sends her away with a command: “Go, and sin no more.” In those words and actions, we see our own reflection. We are all the woman caught in adultery, we are all the Pharisees and scribes. We see the faults of others and we see the faults that are present in our own hearts and lives. Jesus sees and knows them also. The Lenten season in a special way is an invitation to reflect on our tendency to judge and condemn others, as well as our tendency to judge and condemn ourselves. The Lord wants to look you and me in the eye and speak to our hearts those powerful words “Neither do I condemn you.” Fortunately for us, Jesus has provided us with the opportunity to hear that sentiment in the Sacrament of Confession. By confessing our sins, we receive the great mercy of God. Fortunately, that mercy comes with an accompanying command “Go, and sin no more.” We know that if we continue in sinful behaviors, patterns, habits, or mentalities, we will bring condemnation and pain on ourselves and those around us. We need to change. As this holy season draws to a close, let us recognize our need to look Jesus in the eye, to stand before Him in humility and humiliation, and to hear both words of merciful love and words of command challenging us to virtue.

Peace,

Fr. Sam

March 31, 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday we mark the fourth Sunday in the season of Lent, often called Laetare Sunday. The rose colored vestments we wear remind us that the great celebration of Easter is drawing near. The word “laetare” is Latin for “rejoice,” and it is used here to help us continue through the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving of this holy season. As we go through our Lenten journey, our penitential practices can begin to weigh on us, and we run the risk of thinking of Lent as a dour, guilt-ridden time. The Church gives us a liturgical focus in the midst of this penance that calls attention to the reason for our penance – we are preparing for the mysteries of our salvation, and though those mysteries involve the suffering of Christ, they win for us freedom from sin, renewal of spirit, and the open gates of Heaven.

The Gospel parable of the Two Sons read at Mass this weekend bears this out. As the Pharisees and scribes grumble about Jesus’ association with sinners, He shares this powerful lesson about sin, repentance, and mercy. The son who squanders everything and has no choice but to come home hoping to be a servant reminds us of our own sinfulness. How often we squander the gifts that God pours out on us, how often we betray the love of our Heavenly Father! But human nature is oriented toward God. Thus, when we sin, we feel guilt and a very real distance from God. This separation hurts and the pain we feel begins to turn us back to our proper orientation. The son begins to turn back to his father, and so should we – during this great season of Lent, our reflection on our own sin ought to remind us to go back to our Father, seeking forgiveness with the humility of the prodigal son.

The other son in the parable has never been far from his father. In this man, we see a reflection of another facet of our lives. For the most part, we believe we are generally good people. All of us have an occasional tendency to judge others or think that we are entitled to something that another has received. It is humbling to hear the words of the father calling us to rejoice at the return of a sinner, but we need to hear those words, too!

The father runs to greet his prodigal son and welcomes him home with celebration. Our penitential practices both focus our attention on our sin and remind us of the way that our Heavenly Father sees us. We need to run back to our Father, confessing our sin and asking mercy. And we also need to rejoice, for He runs to meet us on the way, He seeks us out no matter how lost we believe we are, He desperately wants us to rejoice in His presence. God never stops looking for us and calling us into relationship with Himself. Furthermore, He never stops calling us to rejoice when sinners turn back to Him. He sends us out to invite sinners home. We are prodigals, and who better than prodigals to call other prodigals back home? So today, let us rejoice that we have been called to this holy season of penance and that God is working out our salvation.

Peace,

Fr. Sam

March 24, 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This weekend we hear the story of Moses and the burning bush. As he approaches this amazing sight, God calls out to him, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” The act of removing his sandals is, for Moses, a sign of his obedience to God and his reverence for the holiness of God present in that place. This interior disposition of reverence, accompanied by the outward sign of the removal of shoes is translated in many ways in our modern day. During this season of Lent, we are invited to tread on holy ground and we are called to deeper reverence for the holy things of God.

Removing one’s shoes in imitation of Moses, for the Jewish people, became a symbolic way of leaving behind the profane things of this world. In the ancient liturgical practice of Israel, the priests would ceremonially wash before offering sacrifice. The sandals and clothing they wore outside would never accompany them to the altar. Think for a moment of how Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles. In a traditional home in ancient Israel, a servant would wash the feet of guests upon their arrival, after they had removed their sandals. Even today, many people make the request that shoes be left at the door. For the residents, it helps them keep the home clean, but for guests, removing shoes is a sign of respect for the host. This symbolic act is shared in multiple cultures and religions. Popular literature picks up the theme, as well: J.R.R. Tolkien highlights the fact that his hobbits never wear shoes, a symbol of their simplicity and closeness to the land. While we do not remove our shoes upon entering the church, we are invited to tread on holy ground and to be aware of the burning bush in our midst.

We bless ourselves with holy water as we come through the door of the church, a sign of leaving behind whatever is unholy. Then, aware of the holy ground on which we stand, we genuflect to the Holy of Holies, the Tabernacle, the burning bush in our midst where the Lord remains for us. Before, during, and after the Mass, the sanctuary stands as a reminder of that which is especially holy and set apart. To approach the sanctuary then is a great privilege, one which calls us to the utmost reverence.

The reverence we show our Lord in the church trains us for the other elements of our lives. Just as the Lenten practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving can and should bear fruit in our spiritual lives throughout the year, so our heart-level removal of our sandals as we approach the sanctuary can and should influence our daily life. Reverence to God is something we demonstrate in church, in speech, in the respect we show to those around us, the way we reverence our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even our enemies. This week, let us remove our sandals and recognize that the ground on which we tread is holy and the Lord calls us to reverence.

Peace,

Fr. Sam