The Singing Priest Sings Again: You Raise Me Up
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"With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts." ~3 Kings 19:10
It was to the Limbo of the Fathers that Christ descended, a place of the dead that was emptied through His Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, and no longer exists. By this "Harrowing of Hell," as His Descent is sometimes called, the doors to Heaven were swung open so that those who die in a state of grace may enter in, alleluia! Adam, Eve, Noe, Abraham, Moses, the good thief on the cross -- all the righteous were illuminated by the Presence of Christ in the place of death, making Sheol itself a paradise. They remained there with Him until His Bodily Resurrection when the the "bars of Hell" were broken down and they were later able to enter into Heaven itself with His glorious Ascension.
Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began....He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him -- He who is both their God and the son of Eve.. "I am your God, who for your sake have become your son....I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead." [Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR]Because of this great silence, today there will be no Mass (until the Vigil Mass tonight, which technically is Easter); instead, there is a solemn service. Today is traditionally a day of abstinence in addition to being a day of fasting, until the Vigil Mass, when the Lenten Fast ends. Though this fasting requirement was abolished in the new Code of Canon Law, traditional Catholics follow the traditional practice. In some churches today, priests will bless Easter baskets containing the foods eaten tomorrow (in other places, the baskets will be blessed after the liturgy tomorrow). Baskets bearing Easter bread, Easter eggs, meats, butter, horseradish, and salt are brought to church, blessed, and taken home to await the great feast tomorrow.
Abba Joseph related that Abba Isaac said, 'I was sitting with Abba Poemen one day and I saw him in ecstasy and I was on terms of great freedom of speech with him, I prostrated myself before him and begged him, saying, 'Tell me where you were." He was forced to answer and he said, "My thought was with Saint Mary, the Mother of God, as she wept by the cross of the Saviour. I wish I could always weep like that."The Divine Mercy novena begins today. Never underestimate the power of prayer.
The Mass of Maundy Thursday is one of the most solemn of the year; and although the feast of Corpus Christi is the day for solemnly honouring the mystery of the holy Eucharist, still, the Church would have the anniversary of the last Supper to be celebrated with all possible splendour. The colour of the vestments is white, as it is for Christmas day and Easter Sunday; the decorations of the altar and sanctuary all bespeak joy, and yet, there are several ceremonies during this Mass; which show that the holy bride of Christ has not forgotten the Passion of her Jesus, and that this joy is but transient. The priest entones the angelic hymn, Glory be to God in the highest! and the bells ring forth a joyous peal, which continues during the whole of the heavenly canticle: but from that moment they remain silent, and their long silence produces, in every heart, a sentiment of holy mournfulness. But why does the Church deprive us, for so many hours of the grand melody of these sweet bells, whose voices cheer us during the rest of the year? It is to show us that this world lost all its melody and joy when its Saviour suffered and was crucified. Moreover, she would hereby remind us, how the apostles (who were the heralds of Christ, and are figured by the bells, whose ringing summons the faithful to the house of God), fled from their divine Master and left Him a prey to His enemies.Fr. Mark explains the mystery of the Sacred Triduum, saying:
The annual celebration of "the most sacred Triduum of the crucified, buried and risen Lord" is the liturgical, theological and spiritual center of the Church's life and "the culmination of the entire liturgical year." The Paschal Triduum begins with the Vesperal Mass of the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday, continues through the Friday of the Lord's Passion, reaches its summit in the Solemn Paschal Vigil, and comes to a close with Sunday Vespers of the Lord's Resurrection.
As an integral element of the Sacred Triduum, Gregorian Chant takes its place in the complexus of sacred signs by which the Paschal Mystery is rendered present to the Church, and the Church drawn into the Paschal Mystery. The chant of the Church is thus essentially related to the Paschal Mystery and to the new life which it imparts. The transcendent value of liturgical chant, especially during the annual celebration of the Paschal Triduum, is properly theological and spiritual. The chants of the Paschal Triduum constitute therefore a point of reconciliation and unity "between theology and liturgy, liturgy and spirituality." What Father Alexander Schmemann wrote concerning the Paschal Triduum of the Byzantine liturgy and its hymnography is also true, mutatis mutandis, of the liturgy of the Roman Rite and of its proper chants:
The liturgy of the Paschal Triduum -- Holy Friday, Great and Holy Saturday and Sunday -- reveals more about the "doctrines" of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Death and Resurrection than all the other "loci theologici" together; and, let me stress it, not merely in the texts, in the magnificent Byzantine hymnography, but precisely by the very "experience" -- ineffable yet illuminating -- given during these days in their inner interdependence, in their nature; indeed as epiphany and revelation. Truly if the word mystery can still have any meaning today, be experienced and not merely "explained," it is here, in this unique celebration which reveals and communicates before it "explains"; which makes us witnesses and participants of one all-embracing Event from which stems everything else: understanding and power, knowledge and joy, contemplation and communion.The Whole Person in the Whole Church
Participation in the sacred liturgy makes "witnesses and participants" of those who thus experience the Paschal Mystery as something revealed and communicated, men and women capable of saying, "We have seen the Lord" (Jn 20:24). Paradoxically, while each worshiper must enter personally into the Paschal Mystery, making a personal profession of faith at Baptism, and uttering a personal Amen to the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the effect of such a personal engagement is participation in the Body of Christ and the unity of the Holy Spirit. The saving mystery of Christ's death and Resurrection embraces and sanctifies the integral human person within the communion of the Church. The symbolic language of the liturgy therefore engages the human person bodily, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. (Read entire post.)
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. Apocalypse 7:9-10It is the triumphant entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem as He comes there to die. Let us grasp the palms which celebrate His martyrdom and our own. I have always loved Palm Sunday, since I was a small child. There is a sense during this week of weeks of being transported beyond time and space into the Jerusalem of old. All Christians become citizens of Jerusalem during Holy Week as we watch the greatest drama in the history of the world unfold. The Passion of Our Savior is the source and center of all tragedy, of all poetry, of all great art, of all the love, hope, and tears that ever were and that ever will be. We are confronted with our own weakness and sin as we see ourselves not only as helpless but as guilty. It is only in immersing ourselves in the bitter suffering and abandonment of Our Lord Jesus Christ that the chaos, turmoil and useless agony of life and the world make any sense at all.
Let us hope that, by God's mercy, the holy time we are now entering upon will work such a happy change in us, that, on the day of judgment, we may confidently fix our eyes on Him we are now about to contemplate crucified in the hands of sinners. The death of Jesus puts the whole of nature in commotion; the midday sun is darkened, the earth is shaken to its very foundations, the rocks are split; may it be that our hearts, too, be moved and pass from indifference to fear, from fear to hope, and, at length from hope to love; so that having gone down with our Crucified to the very depths of sorrow, we may deserve to rise with Him unto light and joy, beaming with the brightness of His Resurrection, and having within ourselves the pledge of new life, which shall then die no more.During Passiontide, it is good to reflect upon the nature of envy and jealousy, for it is envy and jealousy which killed Jesus.
Envy disrupts social life generally. It sets the child against the father, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, and nation against nation. It kills friendship, undermines business relationships, and hinders reconciliation. It is one of the chief sources of misunderstanding, criticism, hatred, vengeance, calumny, detraction, and perverse attacks upon private life.(Excerpt from The Hidden Power of Kindness by Father Lawrence Lovasik, Sophia Institute Press, 1999, pp.62-63)
Envy and greed, the source of the world's unrest and wars, are sins against charity, because they make us seek what belongs to others. Often, even at the cost of harm to our neighbor, we want what does not belong to us....The envious person becomes distrustful, unjust, suspicious. Envy makes its victims ill-tempered, sad, and unapproachable....
Jealousy implies the fear of being displaced by a rival, or of being deprived of that which is rightfully ours or of that which we think ought to be ours. Jealousy is anther form of envy. Jealousy has to do with our own possessions, whereas envy has to do with the possessions of others. We resent an intrusion upon that which belongs to us, and we are prone to become vengeful at this disregard of our rights and claims.
Jealousy goes a step further than envy; it not only tries to lessen the good opinion others enjoy and criticizes those who are praised and rewarded, but is characterized by an excessive love of our own personal good and brings on a fear that we will be deprived of it. Jealousy prefers to see good left undone rather than lose a single degree of praise.