Thursday, April 12, 2018

Saint John Paul II on Silence

From Vultus Christi:
Again and again, I return to Pope Saint John Paul II’s magnificent Apostolic Letter  2 May 1995, Orientale Lumen. When it was promulgated twenty–three years ago, its luminous doctrine pierced my heart and compelled me to a prayer of adoration and silence. I often put it into the hands of men at the beginning of the monastic journey. I have referred to it in every retreat that I have been called upon to teach. Orientale Lumen treats of tradition, of monasticism, of spiritual fatherhood, of the sacramental economy, of the sacred liturgy, of the adorable face of Christ, and of the adoring silence of which we all have need lest, Pope Saint John Paul II says, we “delude ourselves that it is enough to heap word upon word to attract people to the experience of God”. Here, then, is the magnificent portion of the text in which Pope Saint John Paul II summons the Church to enter the silence distilled by adoration in spirit and in truth. (Read more.)

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Annunciation

The solemnity of the Annunciation is kept today. Here is a reflection from Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, OCD:
The Angel's explanation does not prevent future events and circumstances from remaining hidden and obscure to Mary. She finds herself face to face with a mystery, a mystery which she knows intuitively to be rich in suffering; for she has learned from the Sacred Scriptures that the Redeemer will be a man of sorrows, sacrificed for the salvation of mankind. Therefore, the ineffable joy of the divine maternity is presented to her wrapped in a mystery of sorrow: to be willing to be the Mother of the Son of God means consenting to be the Mother of one condemned to death. Yet Mary accepts everything in her fiat: in the joy as well as in the sorrow of the mystery, she has but one simple answer: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Low Sunday

It is Divine Mercy Sunday. Father Mark says it better than I ever could. To quote:
The Church is a community of wounded persons who have contemplated the glorious wounds of the Risen Christ. Our wounds are the means by which the mercy of the Risen Christ penetrates into the secret places of the soul. Those who have no wounds, or those who pretend to have none, shut out the healing mercy of Christ. A certain kind of virtue — self-sufficient and hard — renders one impenetrable to the balm of Divine Mercy. Those who know themselves to be wounded and who expose their wounds to the radiance of Christ’s glorious wounds, experience the power of his resurrection. These alone are sent forth by Christ to carry on his work of healing mercy in the world. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Christ is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!


I like the idea that beauty and holiness are the apologia for Christianity. The beauty of Christianity needs to shine out more; this is where the celebration of the liturgy becomes central. And the goodness of Christianity, i.e. the holiness of self-giving love (the witness of charity) and of prayer, needs to be sustained and developed. And this too, certainly: that the one thing Christianity has to offer is Easter. Simply: Christ is risen!Dom Hugh Gilbert (from A Conservative Blog for Peace)
The Regina caeli is said in place of the Angelus during Eastertide.
Queen of Heaven
V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
V. Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Regina caeli
V. Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia.
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
V. Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.



The Easter Sequence

Here is the Easter Sequence, to be sung before the Gospel during the Easter Octave:
Victimae Paschali laudes immolent Christiani.
Agnus redemit oves: Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores.
Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus.
Dic nobis Maria, Quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis, et gloriam vidi resurgentis.
Angelicos testes, sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea: praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere: Tu nobis, victor Rex miserere.
Amen. Alleluia.

++++++++++

Christians, to the Paschal victim offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb; and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners to his Father reconciled.
Death with life contended: combat strangely ended!
Life's own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign.
Tell us, Mary: say what thou didst see upon the way.
The tomb the Living did enclose; I saw Christ's glory as He rose!
The angels there attesting; shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Christ, my hope, has risen: He goes before you into Galilee.
That Christ is truly risen from the dead we know.
Victorious King, Thy mercy show!
Amen. Alleluia

The Eighth Day

From Abbot Gueranger:
Let, then, the week with its Sabbath pass by; what we Christians want is the eighth day, the day that is beyond the measure of time, the day of eternity, the day whose light is not intermittent or partial, but endless and unlimited. Thus speak the holy Fathers, when explaining the substitution of the Sunday for the Saturday. It was, indeed, right that man should keep, as the day of his weekly and spiritual repose, that on which the Creator of the visible world had taken his divine rest; but it was a commemoration of the material creation only. The Eternal Word comes down in the world that he has created; he comes with the rays of his divinity clouded beneath the humble veil of our flesh; he comes to fulfil the figures of the first Covenant. Before abrogating the Sabbath, he would observe it as he did every tittle of the Law; he would spend it as the day of rest, after the work of his Passion, in the silence of the sepulchre: but, early on the eighth day, he rises to life, and the life is one of glory.
'Let us,' says the learned and pious Abbot Rupert, 'leave the Jews to enjoy the ancient Sabbath, which is a memorial of the visible creation.... But our Sabbath has been transferred from the seventh to the eighth day, and the eighth is the first. And rightly was the seventh changed into the eighth, because we Christians put our joy in a better work than the creation of the world.... Let the lovers of the world keep a Sabbath for its creation: but our joy is in the salvation of the world, for our life, yea and our rest, is hidden with Christ in God.'

The mystery of the seventh followed by an eighth day, as the holy one, is again brought before us by the number of weeks which form Eastertide. These weeks are seven; they form a week of weeks, and their morrow is again a Sunday, the glorious feast of Pentecost. These mysterious numbers-which God himself fixed when he instituted the first Pentecost after the first Pasch-were adopted by the Apostles when they regulated the Christian Easter, as we learn from St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. Isidore, Amalarius, Rabanus Maurus and from all the ancient interpreters of the mysteries of the holy Liturgy. 'If we multiply seven by seven' says St. Hilary, 'we shall find that this holy season is truly the Sabbath of sabbaths, but what completes it and raises it to the plenitude of the Gospel, is the eighth day which follows, eighth and first both together in itself. The Apostles have given so sacred an institution to these seven weeks that, during them, no one should kneel, or mar by fasting the spiritual joy of this long feast. The same institution has been extended to each Sunday; for this day which follows the Saturday has become, by the application of the progress of the Gospel the completion of the Saturday, and the day of feast and joy.'
From the Easter Sermon by Saint John Chrysotom:
 Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
  Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?  Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Exultet

The Easter Proclamation or Exultet from the Holy Saturday liturgy is one of the most sublime chants in the Roman rite, although it has gone through some changes over the years. Here is the authorized English translation from the 1970 Missale Romanum:


Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,

that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

(For it is fed by the melting wax,
which the mother bee brought forth
to make this precious candle.)

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

Mystery of Faith

Fr. Angelo explores the mystery at hand.
Indeed, the New Garden of Paradise is the Heart of Mary and it is like the enclosed space of the Cenacle where the first Mass was celebrated. It is like Garden of the Agony of Jesus where He resigned Himself to the Chalice of Suffering. And it is like the Garden of the Passion and Resurrection, where the New Tree of Life grows and bears fruit. Her virginal womb is truly the Virgin Earth from which grows forth the Tree of Life, and, one way or another, it is the exemplar for the enclosed space in which the Victim and Victor is laid and from which He rises. It is the true Grail of the Blood of Christ where we enter into The Mystery of Faith. St. Louis de Montfort writes that devotion to Mary is the secret that the Holy Spirit unseals for us (The Secret of Mary, 20). We are invited to enter this Enclosed Garden and Fountain Sealed, if we are willing to be humble in the face of the mysterium fidei.
The Easter mystery is all about sacrificial love, Christ’s, first of all, then ours in the Heart of the Immaculate Coredemptrix, the one in whom the mysteries we celebrate are fully realized. The Great Sacrifice makes Jesus present as our food, and in Him, in our participation in that Sacrifice through Holy Communion, we are incorporated into the mystery, mysticism and transformation in preparation for our own resurrection. This is what we celebrate as we witness the Bride of Christ decked out in all Her liturgical glory. This is the real secret of liturgical reform and its only real object.
May the Peace of Easter be yours. (Read more.)

Holy Saturday

From Fish Eaters:
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.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday


Fr. Mark quotes the Desert Fathers: 
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.

"My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!...I gave you a royal scepter, but you gave me a crown of thorns." ~from the Improperia.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Holy Thursday


Let us prepare for the Last Supper with Our Lord. Dom Gueranger writes of the Mass of the Lord's Supper in The Liturgical Year, Vol. VI:
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.

Gregorian Chant
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.)


"And there appeared to Him an angel from Heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer." Luke 22:43

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Into the Harbor of the Sacred Passion

From Vultus Christi:
Most of us are repulsed by the Cross. We live in fear of suffering. We are willing to contemplate the Cross from a distance, willing to place it on our walls or to wear it on a chain over our hearts. It is quite another thing to be lifted up in its arms, to surrender to its embrace and to remain there naked, exposed and vulnerable. And yet, the saints are unanimous in testifying that for those who surrender to the embrace of the Cross and remain there, it becomes the Tree of Life, the Marriage Bed, and the Altar of Sacrifice.

My Yoke is Sweet
An ancient liturgical text describes the beginning of Holy Week as a ship coming into harbour. The Cross of Christ is our haven and our rest. Our Lord speaks to us and says: “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-29).

The Will of the Father is Always Love
The sweet yoke of Jesus is fashioned from the wood of the Cross. Those whom He draws to Himself find rest with Him in the arms of the Cross. When we struggle and strain against the Cross, we condemn ourselves to a long and restless agony, saying with Job: “My heart is in turmoil and is never still” (Job 30:27). When we surrender to the embrace of the Cross, we rest with Jesus in the will of the Father. We discover that the will of the Father is always love, and so begin to pray: “Father, not my will, but Thine, be done” (Lk 22:42).

Tree of Life, Marriage Bed, and Altar
The Cross is the “tree that is planted beside flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves never fade” (Psalm 1:3). Incandescent with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Cross is the bush that Moses saw “burning and yet not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). The Cross is the marriage bed upon which Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride, the Church consummate their love. The Cross is the altar from which ascends a fragrant sacrifice: the immolation of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

The Mass
How do we pass over from struggle to rest, from the tempest to the harbour? How do we pass over from the barren desert to the Tree of Life, from isolation to communion? How do we pass over from the threshold to the altar, and from the altar to God? By the Cross. Holy Week is the time of our great passover: from darkness to light, from sadness to joy, from time to eternity, from death to life. If you would leave behind the rot of your sins, and the darkness of untruth, and the horror of all that attacks innocence and outrages the Face of Love, then let yourself be drawn to the Cross. To each of us, and in every Mass, Our Lord offers the healing wood of the Cross. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the place, and the means, and the price of our Passover; the Mass is the Church held in the embrace of the Cross. (Read more.)

Wednesday of Holy Week

Madonna of the Precious Blood
From Vultus Christi:
We confess the self-emptying obedience of Christ, obedience even to the death of the cross, calling him LORD. We summon the entire cosmos — things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth — to adoration of his Name! Already, we lift our eyes to the see the glory of the risen and ascended Christ. The very melody of the introit scales an entire octave to soar into the heights, obliging us to “seek the things that are above” (Col 3:1). Dame Aemiliana speaks of “the irresistible, shining tone of triumph with which today’s Mass straightaway puts the approaching shadows of evening to flight.” Like Saint Stephen at the hour of his death, we see Christ in the glory of God the Father. “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). The Crucified is our Kyrios, the triumphant king, raised up into the glory of the Father.
[...]

The Communion Antiphon begins today with a mysterious word, a word of the suffering Christ, given to sustain us. Potum meum cum fletu temperebam. “I mingled my drink with weeping” (Ps 101:10). The chalice is given Christ by the Father. “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk 22:42). The chalice of Christ’s sufferings is made full when he adds to it his own tears, the tears of a Man, the tears of God. This is the chalice offered us in the Eucharist: a communion with the suffering Christ, a communion in his blood and in his tears. He mingled his drink with weeping to make our drink sweet. He was lifted up and thrown down (cf. Ps 101:10) that we who are thrown down might, by grace, be lifted up. He became withered like the grass (cf. Ps 101:11) that the garden of the kingdom might be planted and flourish and grow beautiful among us. (Read more.)
Precious Blood of Jesus

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tuesday of Holy Week

 From Vultus Christi:

    The Eucharist is the awful reality of the Christus passus. The mystery of the suffering Christ is made present to us and for us. For our healing, his wounds are pressed against ours. For our cleansing, his Blood flows impetuous like a torrent. For our life, his breath is given over in death. The Eucharist is the Crucified “lifted up and drawing all men to himself”(cf. Jn 12:32). It is the Eucharist that causes us to cry out, “O great Passion! O deep wounds! O outpouring of Blood! O death suffered in every bitterness, give us life.” (Read more.)


Scott Richert discusses the spirit of sacrifice and Holy Week.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday


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 7:9-10
It 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.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Jesus Wept

"If thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!" Luke 19:42.

Monday, March 19, 2018

St. Joseph's Life of Faith

The following is an excerpt from Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, O.C.D: 
St. Joseph's whole life may be summed up as a continual adherence to the Divine plan, even in situations which were very obscure and mysterious to him. In our life, too, there is always some mystery, either because God is pleased to work in a hidden, secret manner or because His action is always incomprehensible to our poor human intelligence. Therefore, we need that glance of faith, that complete confidence which, relying on the infinite goodness of God, convinces us that He always and in all circumstances wills our good and disposes everything to that end. Only this loving trust will permit us, like Joseph, always to say yes to every manifestation of the divine will, a humble, prompt, trustful yes, in spite of the obscurities, the difficulties, the mystery.... (p. 1131)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Passiontide


Today we veil the statues and pictures of our home altar with purple cloth, in observance of Passiontide. Although the Fifth Sunday of Lent is not designated as "Passion Sunday" on the new calendar, it is still permissible to cover the statues and sacred images during this week and the next. It really helps to create a spirit of mourning in honor of the sufferings of Our Lord. The Church offers a treasury of beautiful hymns which draw the soul into the mystery of Christ's passion and death.

As Abbot Gueranger writes in The Liturgical Year, Vol VI:
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.

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.
(Excerpt from The Hidden Power of Kindness by Father Lawrence Lovasik, Sophia Institute Press, 1999, pp.62-63)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Lorica of Saint Patrick

Here is Fáed Fíada, "The Cry of the Deer" or "St. Patrick's Breastplate," a prayer attributed to the great Apostle of Ireland. 
 I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.
I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Laetare Sunday

Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. (Psalm) Laetatus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus. Gloria Patri.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. (Psalm) I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.
It is Laetare Sunday. As Fr. Mark explains so well:
Jerusalem is, according to the psalmist, “the dwelling of all joy” (cf. Ps 86:7). In Rome, where the Lenten liturgy is celebrated in ancient stational churches, the Mass of Laetare Sunday is set in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. In that context, the great cry, “Jerusalem!” has a special resonance. You may ask why this basilica came to be called “in Jerusalem” when, in fact, it stands in Rome. In antiquity, it was called simply, “Jerusalem.” To go to the Basilica of the Holy Cross was to go “up to Jerusalem.” When, in the year 326, Saint Helena returned from the Holy Land, laden with relics, she had with her the most astonishing treasure: she had filled the entire hold of a ship with earth excavated from the holy places in Jerusalem. She had this sacred earth from Jerusalem deposited beneath the Sessorian palace that, enriched with relics of Our Lord’s blessed Cross and Passion, was to become her own church. Saint Helena’s church became “Jerusalem come to Rome.” Today’s stational celebration is a way of going “up to Jerusalem” without leaving Rome and, in a very real sense, a going up to the joys of heaven, a foretaste of the joy that lies beyond the gates of heaven thrown open by Christ the Prince of Life. The psalm that accompanies the entrance antiphon sings just that: “O my joy when they said to me: Let us go up to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 121:1). To go up to Jerusalem is to go up to the highest joy. The psalmist prizes Jerusalem “above all his joys” (cf. Psalm 136:6).(Read more.)
Here is a meditation from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B.:
This Sunday, called, from the first word of the Introit, Lætare Sunday, is one of the most solemn of the year. The Church interrupts her lenten mournfulness; the chants of the Mass speak of nothing but joy and consolation; the organ, which has been silent during the preceding three Sundays, now gives forth its melodious voice; the deacon resumes his dalmatic, and the subdeacon his tunic; and instead of purple, rose-coloured vestments are allowed to be used. These same rites were practised in Advent, on the third Sunday, called Gaudete. The Church's motive for introducing this expression of joy into today's liturgy is to encourage her children to persevere fervently to the end of this holy season. The real mid-Lent was last Thursday, as we have already observed; but the Church, fearing lest the joy might lead to some infringement on the spirit of penance, has deferred her own notice of it to this Sunday, when she not only permits, but even bids, her children to rejoice!...
The blessing of the golden rose is one of the ceremonies peculiar to the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is called on this account Rose Sunday. The thoughts suggested by this flower harmonize with the sentiments wherewith the Church would now inspire her children. The joyous time of Easter is soon to give them a spiritual spring, of which that of nature is but a feeble image.
 Hence, we cannot be surprised that the institution of this ceremony is of a very ancient date. We find it observed under the pontificate of St. Leo IX (eleventh century); and we have a sermon on the golden rose preached by the glorious Pope Innocent III, on this Sunday, and in the basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem. In the middle ages, when the Pope resided in the Lateran palace, having first blessed the rose, he went on horseback to the church of the Station. He wore the mitre, was accompanied by all the Cardinals, and held the blessed flower in his hand. Having reached the basilica, he made a discourse on the mysteries symbolized by the beauty, the colour, and the fragrance of the rose. Mass was then celebrated.
After the Mass, the Pope returned to the Lateran palace. Surrounded by the sacred college, he rode across the immense plain which separates the two basilicas, with the mystic flower still in his hand. We may imagine the joy of the people as they gazed upon the holy symbol. When the procession had reached the palace gates, if there were a prince present, it was his privilege to hold the stirrup, and assist the Pontiff to dismount; for which filial courtesy he received the rose, which had received so much honour and caused such joy. ~ Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol. V

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Novena to St. Joseph

Today begins the nine-days of intensive prayer to Saint Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the patron and protector of fathers and of families, and of the dying. The month of March is dedicated to Saint Joseph. Let us beg his direct intercession. His intercession is powerful; all those who have experienced his intervention know what I am talking about. Really, he will help in any dire situation. I love Saint Joseph. Here is a novena prayer:
Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls - Pray for Me.
Here is another little prayer as well:
Dear Saint Joseph, you who have the power to render possible that which seems impossible, come to our aid in our present trouble and distress. Take this important and difficult affair under your particular protection that it may end happily.
Dear Saint Joseph, all our confidence is in you. Let it not be said we have invoked you in vain. Since you are so powerful with Jesus and Mary, show that your goodness equals your power.
Divine Providence did provide. Divine Providence can provide. Divine Providence will provide. Amen.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Novena to St. Patrick

Today begins the novena to Saint Patrick, Apostle of the Irish. 
Say once a day for 9 days, especially beginning on 8 March and ending on 16 March, the eve of the Feast of St. Patrick. (From Fish Eaters) 
Blessed saint Patrick, glorious Apostle of Ireland, who didst become a friend and father to me for ages before my birth, hear my prayer and accept, for God, the sentiments of gratitude and veneration with which my heart is filled. Through thee I have inherited that faith which is dearer than life. I now make thee the representative of my thanks, and the mediator of my homage to Almighty God. Most holy Father and patron of my country, despise not my weakness; remember that the cries of little children were the sounds that rose, like a mysterious voice from heaven, and invited thee to come amongst us. Listen, then, to my humble supplication; may my prayer ascend to the throne of God, with the praises and blessings which shall ever sanctify thy name and thy memory. May my hope be animated by the patronage and intercession of our forefathers, who now enjoy eternal bliss and owe their salvation, under God, to thy courage and charity. Obtain for me grace to love God with my whole heart, to serve him with my whole strength, and to persevere in good purposes to the end, o faithful shepherd of the Irish flock, who wouldst have laid down a thousand lives to save one soul, take my soul, and the souls of my countrymen, under thy special care. Be a father to the Church of Ireland and her faithful people. Grant that all hearts may share the blessed fruits of that Gospel thou didst plant and water. Grant that, as our ancestors of old had learned, under thy guidance, to unite science with virtue, we too, may learn, under thy patronage, to consecrate all Christian duty to the glory of God. I commend to thee my native land, which was so dear to thee while on earth. Protect it still, and, above all, direct its chief pastors, particularly those who teach us. Give them grace to walk in thy footsteps, to nurture the flock with the word of life and the bread of salvation, and to lead the heirs of the Saints thou hast formed to the possession of that glory which they, with Thee, enjoy in the kingdom of the Blessed: through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
V. Pray for us, O glorious saint Patrick. R. And obtain for us the intention of this Novena.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Third Sunday of Lent

It is Scrutiny Sunday.To quote:
Formerly, on this day, candidates were examined in preparation for Baptism on Holy Saturday. The first effect of Baptism is to free the souls from the power of the devil. The house of which Jesus speaks, is the human soul before His coming, degraded by idolatry, by sensuality, under the tyranny of the evil spirit. Mary holding the Infant...is a symbol of our Baptism. Mary gives birth to us as members of the Mystical Body of her Christ. Moreover, like her, "blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it" (Gospel). These baptismal duties of death to sin and life in God (Epistle are meant to gladden, not to oppress the human heart (Offertory), intended by God for Divine possession (Communion Verse), safe from diabolical obsession. (Read entire post.)

Novena of Grace

The powerful novena to St. Francis Xavier begins today.
Most amiable and most loving Saint Francis Xavier, in union with thee I reverently adore the Divine Majesty. I rejoice exceedingly on account of the marvelous gifts which God bestowed upon thee. I thank God for the special graces He gave thee during thy life on earth and for the great glory that came to thee after thy death. I implore thee to obtain for me, through thy powerful intercession, the greatest of all blessings--that of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beg of thee to secure for me the special favor I ask in this novena.
(Here you may mention the grace, spiritual or temporal, that you wish to obtain.)
In asking this favor, I am fully resigned to the Divine Will. I pray and desire only to obtain that which is most conducive to the greater glory of God and the greater good of my soul.
V. Pray for us, Saint Francis Xavier.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Let Us Pray
O God, Who didst vouchsafe, by the preaching and miracles of Saint Francis Xavier, to join unto Thy Church the nations of the Indies, grant, we beseech Thee, that we who reverence his glorious merits may also imitate his example, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Then Recite:
  • Our Father
  • Hail Mary - Three times in memory of Saint Francis Xavier's devotion to the Most Holy Trinity
  • Glory be to the Father - 10 times in thanksgiving for the graces received during his 10 years of apostleship.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Second Sunday of Lent

The Transfiguration by Alexander Ivanov
Moses and Elias witness the Transfiguration.
The Gospel is from St. Matthew 17:1-9. This momentary vision of Christ, in his glory, was given in order to strengthen the three principal Apostles to face the trials to their faith, which the sufferings and crucifixion of their beloved master would bring on them. For the very same reason it is retold to us today, in the early part of Lent, to encourage us to persevere in our Lenten mortification. It reminds us that, very soon, the Easter bells will be ringing out their message of joy once more. If we are sharers with Christ in his sufferings, we shall be sharers with him in his glory as St. Paul reminds us.
This is a truth we all too easily forget, namely, that we cannot and do not get to heaven in a limousine. Our spell on earth is the chance given us by our heavenly Father to earn an eternal reward. This reward surpasses even the wildest imagination of man. We could never earn it, but God accepts the little we can do and provides the balance of his infinite mercy. And yet there are many, far too many, who refuse even that little bit that is asked of them, and are thus running the risk of not partaking in God's scheme for their eternal happiness.
And are they any happier during their few years on this earth by acting thus towards the God of mercy? Can they, by ignoring God and their duties towards him, remove all pain, all sorrow, all sufferings, from their daily lives? Death, which means a total separation from all we possessed and cherished in this world, is waiting around the corner for all of us. Who can face it more calmly and confidently —he man who is firmly convinced that it is the gateway to a new life, and who has done his best to earn admission through that gateway, or the man who has acted all his life as if death did not exist for him, and who has done everything to have the gate to the new life shut forever in his face?
Illnesses and troubles and disappointments are the lot of all men. They respect neither wealth, nor power, nor position. The man who knows his purpose in life, and is ever striving to reach the goal God's goodness has planned for him, can and will see in these trials of life the hand of a kind father who is preparing him for greater things. His sufferings become understandable and more bearable because of his attitude to life and its meaning. The man who ignores God and tries to close the eyes of his mind to the real facts of life has nothing to uphold him or console him in his hours of sorrow and pain. Yet, sorrow and pain will dog his footsteps, strive as he will to avoid them, and he can see no value, no divine purpose in these, for him, misfortunes.
Christ has asked us to follow him, carrying our daily cross, and the end of our journey is not Calvary but resurrection, the entrance to a life of glory with our risen Savior. The Christian who grasps his cross closely and willingly, knowing its value for his real life, will find it becomes lighter and often not a burden but a pleasure. The man who tries to shuffle off his cross, and who curses and rebels against him who sent it, will find it doubles its weight and loses all the value it was intended to have for his true welfare. (Read entire post.)
Here are some profound reflections from Fr. Mark in Ireland:
 It is a curious fact of liturgical history that originally the Second Sunday of Lent had no Mass of its own. The Roman clergy and people were tired from the long night vigil that began on the evening of Ember Saturday and ended at dawn with the Holy Sacrifice. Only when the solemn night vigil was pushed back to Saturday morning did it become necessary to put together a separate Mass for Sunday morning.

In Rome, the stational church is Saint Mary in Dominica, originally a Roman deaconry, that is, a dispensary for the poor. For us, this means, that today’s Mass is a kind of pilgrimage in honour of the holy Mother of God, the Virgin of the Poor, who accompanies us throughout the Lenten journey. Our Lady is the dispensatrix of the graces of God: divinarum gratiarum primaria dispensatrix. We enter today’s Holy Mass, then, as poor people enter a dispensary to wash, to find warmth, and to receive food, medicine, clothing, and shelter. It is the Mother of God herself who presides over this dispensary and she, being the humble handmaid of the Lord, places herself at the service of all who come seeking relief, for she «receives all guests who come like Christ Himself» (RSB 53). (Read more.)

Monday, February 19, 2018

How to Live Like a Monk in the World

From Aleteia:
An excellent, practical aid to contemplation is spending a few moments reviewing the day. not just recalling what happened, but also what each event meant. How was God present in my life today? Where did I see grace? At the end of the day take every fragmentary moment, both the good and the bad, and hand them over to God. This is how we begin to see that our lives are not a jumble of chores and errands, but a tapestry weaved into a continuous whole. Each of us is valuable and we are placed exactly where we should be. Whatever the surroundings or circumstances, whether we’re in the suburbs, the city, or the countryside, there is always an inner mystery to contemplate. (Read more.)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

First Sunday of Lent

From Vultus Christi:
If you want to experience the grace of Lent this year, go boldly into the desert of your weakness, into the wilderness of your sins, into the wastelands of your fears and brokenness. Make a good Confession and do it soon. It is there that the Lord Jesus waits for you. He comes to meet us in our deserts in order to lead us back into The Garden.

When you are lonely, when you are weak, when you have fallen into sin, the only way out is to remember that Jesus chose to experience the desert with us and that He awaits us there, to take us by the hand and lead us out.

Saint Athanasius tells us that when the great Saint Anthony of Egypt was living in the desert in fasting and prayer, the devil assaulted him with violent and frightening temptations. Anthony struggled and fought to the point of exhaustion. Soon after, Our Lord appeared to him. Bewildered, Anthony asked: “Why did you leave me alone in this desert waste to fight off the Evil One and struggle against his attacks?” Our Lord answered: “Anthony, you were not alone. I was invisibly present to you in your temptation and it is through Me and because of My grace that you came through your trial victorious.”

So it is in our lives. No matter how dark the night, no matter how terrifying the desert, no matter how miserable our weakness or how shameful our sins, Jesus Christ is invisibly present to save and deliver. “Christ . . . died,” said Saint Peter in our Second Reading, “the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 P 3 :18)

What begins in the confessional is perfected at the altar. In every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ, Warrior and Prince, Priest and Victim brings us to God. Receive His Body and Blood and you will pass through Him and with Him out of the wastelands of sin into the Garden of the Father’s delight. In Paradise Lost the old Adam heard the grieving Father ask, “Adam, where are you?” (Gn 3:9). In the Mass — the very heart of Paradise Restored — the New Adam raises His voice to offer the Father the one answer He has been waiting for: “Father, the hour has come.” (Jn 17:1). And to the voice of the New Adam, a New Eve joins her voice: it is the voice of Mary His Virgin Mother. It is the voice of the whole Church, and in it the Father hears your voices and mine. (Read more.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday

Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
Our forty days of penance commence with the reception of blessed ashes. The words from the book of Genesis (3:19) help us to think of the shortness of life, of our last end, and of that moment when each shall come before God to be judged. "Remember," wrote Saint Teresa of Avila, "that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; that there is only one glory, which is eternal."

Since Old Testament times, ashes have been a symbol of sorrow for sin. "For I did eat ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping." (Psalm 101:10) In the early Church, only "public" sinners, those guilty of murder, adultery, or idolatry, who had formally repented, would receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, they would humbly kneel at the doors of the church, not entering until they were given absolution on Holy Thursday. The famous liturgist, Abbot Gueranger, gives a description of the ceremony "of the Wednesday in Quinquagesima:"
Before the Mass of the day began, they [the penitents] presented themselves at the church....The priests received the confession of their sins, and then clothed them in sackcloth, and sprinkled ashes on their heads...the clergy and the faithful prostrated themselves and recited aloud the seven penitential psalms. A procession, in which the penitents walked barefooted, then followed; and on its return, the bishop then addressed these words to the penitents: 'Behold, we drive you from the doors of the church by reason of your sins and crimes, as Adam, the first man, was driven out of paradise....' The clergy then sang several responsories, taken from the book of Genesis....The doors were shut, and the penitents were not to pass the threshold until Maunday Thursday, when they were to come to receive absolution. (The Liturgical Year, Vol IV , p 204-205)
During the Middle Ages, it became the custom for all of the faithful to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. We are blessed that so many indulgences can now be gained with very little effort on our part. How light are the penances now demanded of us; what little fasting is required of us! Perhaps the best penance is the patient and loving endurance of hardships and sorrows which come our way; those unchosen mortifications can be heavy enough. Interiorly, we can share the contrition of the brave penitents of old by receiving the ashes with great love for Christ and a determination to follow Him, no matter what. It is time for a new beginning, and for trying, again, to be a disciple.

Lent is like a retreat for the entire church in which all Christians strive more vigorously against the world, the flesh, and the devil, our spiritual enemies. The three works which Holy Mother Church exhorts us to perform during Lent in order to overcome those enemies are prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Through prayer, we grow in strength to conquer the evil one. It is important to make more time for prayer during Lent because it arouses compunction, charity, humility, and other dispositions without which the other two practices would be empty of merit.

We fast in order to imitate Our Lord's forty day fast in the desert. Unlike Him, we need to tame the concupiscence of the flesh, acquire self-discipline, and atone for our personal sins. It was by breaking God's commandment to abstain from eating a certain fruit that Adam and Eve lost the earthly paradise. Both Moses and Elias fasted for forty days before encountering the living God. (Exodus 24:18 and 3 Kings 19:8)

In former times, every day of Lent (except for Sundays and first-class feasts) was a fast day. Now, only two fast days remain -- Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat, as are all Fridays of Lent. Many people think that the Second Vatican Council did away with Friday abstinence, but it did not. Every Friday of the year is a day of abstinence from meat unless the bishops of the country decide to substitute another form of penance. In the United States, it is up to every individual to perform some other Friday penance if they are not able to abstain from meat. However, every Friday of Lent remains a day of strict abstinence.

The third Lenten good work is almsgiving, by which we overcome the "world," that is, the love of riches, luxuries, and honors. Through almsgiving we not only help the poor, the missions, and the temporal needs of the Church, but we mortify any inordinate desires for material things. By having Masses offered, our alms can assist the "Church Suffering" in purgatory. As the aged Tobias said to his son: "Prayer is good with fasting and alms more than more than to lay up treasures of gold. For alms delivereth from death, and...purgeth away sins." (Tobias 12:8-9) As Jesus commands in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday: "Let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing." (Matthew 6:3) It is most important that all our good works are accompanied by charity, humility, and the desire to please God alone.

(Artwork courtesy of Micki)
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