Saturday, 26 March 2016
Holy Saturday is sacred as the day of the Lord's rest; it has been called the "Second Sabbath" after creation. The day is and should be the most calm and quiet day of the entire Church year, a day broken by no liturgical function. Christ lies in the grave, the Church sits near and mourns. After the great battle He is resting in peace, but upon Him we see the scars of intense suffering. The mortal wounds on His Body remain visible. Jesus' enemies are still furious, attempting to obliterate the very memory of the Lord by lies and slander.
Mary and the disciples are grief-stricken, while the Church must mournfully admit that too many of her children return home from Calvary cold and hard of heart. When Mother Church reflects upon all of this, it seems as if the wounds of her dearly Beloved were again beginning to bleed.
According to tradition, the entire body of the Church is represented in Mary: she is the "credentium collectio universa" (Congregation for Divine Worship, Lettera circolare sulla preparazione e celebrazione delle feste pasquali, 73). Thus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she waits near the Lord's tomb, as she is represented in Christian tradition, is an icon of the Virgin Church keeping vigil at the tomb of her Spouse while awaiting the celebration of His resurrection.
The pious exercise of the Ora di Maria is inspired by this intuition of the relationship between the Virgin Mary and the Church: while the body of her Son lays in the tomb and His soul has descended to the dead to announce liberation from the shadow of darkness to His ancestors, the Blessed Virgin Mary, foreshadowing and representing the Church, awaits, in faith, the victorious triumph of her Son over death. — Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy
There are no liturgies celebrated this day, unless the local parish priest blesses the food baskets. The Easter blessings of food owe their origin to the fact that these particular foods, namely, flesh meat and milk products, including eggs, were forbidden in the Middle Ages during the Lenten fast and abstinence. When the feast of Easter brought the rigorous fast to an end, and these foods were again allowed, the people showed their joy and gratitude by first taking the food to church for a blessing. Moreover, they hoped that the Church's blessing on such edibles would prove a remedy for whatever harmful effects the body might have suffered from the long period of self-denial. The Easter blessings of food is still held in some churches.
If there is no blessing for the Easter foods in the parish, the father of the family can pray the Blessing over the Easter food.
It is during the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday that the Easter Vigil is celebrated. The service begins around ten o'clock, in order that the solemn vigil Mass may start at midnight.
Posted by †Seán Manchester at 07:39
Friday, 25 March 2016
Here they laid the cross on the ground while they nailed his hands and feet to it with great spikes. The cross was then lifted and dropped into a hole in the ground. The entire weight of the body tore at the spikes, and the pain was almost beyond endurance. The blood began to pound through the body as the shock of what was happening began to take its toll. As the cells of the body were broken down it became a living death that sometimes lasted for a few hours, and could even last for a few days. Since Jesus had been whipped before they took Him to be crucified, He was already weak from loss of blood. Mercifully, He lived only a few hours on the cross.
Even with all the pain, Jesus thought of others rather than Himself. His first words from the cross were, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Even though He could have threatened to punish them eternally when they faced Him in judgement, he did not do so. He thought of His mother, who stood by the cross weeping, and asked his beloved friend John to take care of her. On either side of Him there were two thieves crucified with Him. When one of them expressed faith in Jesus, the Saviour answered, "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." As the terrible afternoon wore on and His pain increased he finally moaned, "I thirst,"and was offered vinegar, which He would not drink. God blotted out the sun as if to let us know how black the deed which was being done, and out of that blackness Jesus cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" His final words expressed his complete surrender to the will of God as He said, "It is finished; Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit." He then bowed His head and died.
Even the earth could not accept the death of its Creator and Master without showing grief. There was a great earthquake which shook the countryside and made all people afraid. The only fear which we need to have, however, is that of refusing the love He showed in dying for us. The theme of our lives ought to be, "I'll live for Him who died for me, how happy then my soul shall be. I'll live for Him who died for me, my Saviour and my God."
Posted by †Seán Manchester at 09:33
Thursday, 24 March 2016
On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ’ So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, He took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, He said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray Me.’ And they became greatly distressed and began to say to Him one after another, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ He answered, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so.’
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it He broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’
Posted by †Seán Manchester at 06:13
Sunday, 20 March 2016
Holy Week begins today. The entry into Jerusalem is seen as the prophetic fulfillment of Zacharias 9: 9-10 :
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.
Before the Mass is the Blessing of the Palms, which includes an Antiphon, Psalms, and Gospel reading. Then comes the Procession with hymns, when we carry the palms either around the church or outside, weather permitting, and then the Mass, during which there is a very long reading sung in three parts by three deacons (or priest and deacons such as the case may be) - a long recitation of the Passion, including Matthew 26: 36-75 and Matthew 27: 1-60.
Carrying palms (or olive or willow branches, if palms are not available) in procession originates in the Old Testament where it was not only approved but commanded by God at the very foundation of the Old Testament religion. In the autumn of the year, after the harvest, when the people gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles God said in Leviticus 23: 40:
And you shall take to you on the first day the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook: And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God.
Again we read of palms in the II Machabees 10: 6-8:
And they kept eight days with joy, after the manner of the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long before they had kept the feast of the tabernacles when they were in the mountains, and in dens like wild beasts. Therefore they now carried boughs and green branches and palms, for him that had given them good success in cleansing his place. And they ordained by a common statute, and decree, that all the nation of the Jews should keep those days every year.
And in the seventh chapter of Revelation, we find that those who were "sealed" are seen by John carrying palms:
Revelation 7: 9-10:
After this, I saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: Salvation to our God, who sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb.
The palms are blessed before the High Mass today.
Posted by †Seán Manchester at 04:17
Thursday, 17 March 2016
St Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus, probably ever since Christ's first preaching in Judea (John 2: 23), but he did not declare himself as such "for fear of the Jews" (John 19: 38). On account of this secret allegiance to Jesus, he did not consent to His condemnation by the Sanhedrin (Luke 23: 51), and was most likely absent from the meeting which sentenced Jesus to death (Mark 14: 64). The Crucifixion of the Master quickened Joseph's faith and love, and suggested to him that he should provide for Christ's burial before the Sabbath began. Unmindful therefore of all personal danger, a danger which was indeed considerable under the circumstances, he boldly requested from Pilate the Body of Jesus, and was successful in his request (Mark 15: 43-45). Once in possession of this sacred treasure, he — together with Nicodemus, whom his courage had likewise emboldened, and who brought abundant spices — wrapped up Christ's Body in fine linen and grave bands, laid it in his own tomb, new and yet unused, and hewn out of a rock in a neighbouring garden, and withdrew after rolling a great stone to the opening of the sepulchre (Matthew 27: 59, 60; Mark 15: 46; Luke 23: 53; John 19: 38-42). Thus was fulfilled Isaiah's prediction that the grave of the Messiah would be with a rich man (Isaiah 53: 9). The Greek Church celebrates the feast of St Joseph of Arimathea on July 31st, and the Catholic Church on March 17th. Additional details are found concerning Joseph in the apocryphal Acta Pilati. There is also apocryphal legend telling of Joseph accompaning the Apostle Philip, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and others on a preaching mission to Gaul. Lazarus and Mary stayed in Marseilles, while the others travelled north. At the English Channel, Philip sent Joseph, with twelve disciples, to establish Christianity in the most far-flung corner of the Roman Empire, the British Isles. The year AD 63 is commonly given for this event, with AD 37 sometimes being put forth as an alternative.
Posted by †Seán Manchester at 03:33
Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Forty days after the birth of Christ Mary complied with this precept of the law, she redeemed her first-born from the temple (Numbers 18:15), and was purified by the prayer of Simeon the just, in the presence of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2: 22). No doubt this event, the first solemn introduction of Christ into the house of God, was in the earliest times celebrated in the Church of Jerusalem. We find it attested for the first half of the fourth century by the pilgrim of Bordeaux, Egeria or Silvia. The day (February 14th) was solemnly kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection, a homily on Luke 2: 22, and the Holy Sacrifice. But the feast then had no proper name; it was simply called the fortieth day after Epiphany. This latter circumstance proves that in Jerusalem Epiphany was then the feast of Christ's birth.
From Jerusalem the feast of the fortieth day spread over the entire Church and later on was kept on February 2nd, since within the last twenty-five years of the fourth century the Romanfeast of Christ's nativity (December 25th) was introduced. In Antioch it is attested in 526 (Cedrenue); in the entire Eastern Empire it was introduced by the Emperor Justinian I (542) in thanksgiving for the cessation of the great pestilence which had depopulated the city of Constantinople. In the Greek Church it was called Hypapante tou Kyriou, the meeting (occursus) of the Lord and His mother with Simeon and Anna. The Armenians call it: "The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple" and still keep it on February 14th (Tondini di Quaracchi, Calendrier de la Nation Arménienne, 1906, 48); the Copts term it "presentation of the Lord in the Temple" (Nilles, Kal. man., II 571, 643). Perhaps the decree of Justinian gave occasion also to the Roman Church (to Gregory I?) to introduce this feast, but definite information is wanting on this point. The feast appears in the Gelasianum (manuscript tradition of the seventh century) under the new title of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The precession is not mentioned. Pope Sergius I (687-701) introduced a procession for this day. The Gregorianum (tradition of the eighth century) does not speak of this procession, which fact proves that the procession of Sergius was the ordinary "station," not the liturgical act of today. The feast was certainly not introduced by Pope Gelasius to suppress the excesses of the Lupercalia (Migne, Missale Gothicum, 691), and it spread slowly in the West; it is not found in the "Lectionary" of Silos (650) nor in the "Calendar" (731-741) of Sainte-Geneviève of Paris. In the East it was celebrated as a feast of the Lord; in the West as a feast of Mary; although the "Invitatorium" (Gaude et lætare, Jerusalem, occurrens Deo tuo), theantiphons and responsories remind us of its original conception as a feast of the Lord. The blessing of the candles did not enter into common use before the eleventh century; it has nothing in common with the procession of the Pupercalia. In the Latin Church this feast (Purificatio B.M.V.) is a double of the second class. In the Middle Ages it had an octave in the larger number ofdioceses; also today the religious orders whose special object is the veneration of the Mother of God (Carmelites, Servites) and many dioceses (Loreto, the Province of Siena, etc.) celebrate theoctave.
According to the Roman Missal the celebrant after Terce, in stole and cope of purple colour, standing at the epistle side of the altar, blesses the candles (which must be of beeswax). Having sung or recited the five orations prescribed, he sprinkles and incenses the candles. Then he distributes them to the clergy and laity, whilst the choir sings the canticle of Simeon, "Nunc dimittis." Theantiphon "Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel" is repeated after every verse, according to the medieval custom of singing the antiphons. During the procession which now follows, and at which all the partakers carry lighted candles in their hands, the choir sings the antiphon "Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion," composed by St John of Damascus, one of the few pieces which, text and music, have been borrowed by the Roman Church from the Greeks. The other antiphons are of Roman origin. The solemn procession represents the entry of Christ, who is the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem. It forms an essential part of the liturgical services of the day, and must be held in every parochial church where the required ministers can be had. The procession is always kept on February 2nd even when the office and Mass of the feast is transferred to February 3rd. Before the reform of the Latin liturgy by St Pius V (1568), in the churches north and west of the Alps this ceremony was more solemn. After the fifth oration a preface was sung. The "Adorna" was preceded by the antiphon "Ave Maria." While now the procession in held inside the church, during the Middle Ages the clergy left the church and visited the cemetery surrounding it. Upon the return of the procession a priest, carrying an image of the Holy Child, met it at the door and entered the church with the clergy, who sang the canticle of Zachary, "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel." At the conclusion, entering the sanctuary, the choir sang the responsory,"Gaude Maria Virgo" or the prose, "Inviolata" or some other antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin.