“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” (John 11:25-26)
“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” (John 11:25-26)
Holy Saturday or Sabbatum Sanctum…. is a day of great anticipation…we have made it to the final day of our Lenten journey. Like Good Friday, there is no celebration of Mass today. The Church will remain empty until dark….the altar will remain bare as the faithful are called to remember that Christ is still in the tomb… hidden from the world. The somberness and pain from yesterday have settled into our hearts as we wait near the tomb of the Lord, meditating on His passion and His death and the impact it had on the entire world.
We wait…trying to control the excitement that tonight’s Vigil Mass will bring…especially for those who are about to join into the body of the Church with baptism, Holy Communion or Confirmation…We should really try not to get ahead of ourselves…We should really be trying to keep our emotions in check, even though we are eagerly awaiting the joyous celebration of Easter…We must continuously remind ourselves that for today… especially in these early hours.… That our hearts should maintain a certain amount heaviness with the painful realization of the price Christ paid for our sins.
Christ’s Passion wasn’t just something that ancient men did...it is not an action separate from us... No, the reality of our hand in Christ’s Crucifixion has really hit home… we are forced to face the fact that we are partly to blame …Last night as we read the account of the passion…we used our voices to join the crowds in yelling “Crucify Him…Crucify Him!“
These final two days before Easter have really forced us to come to accept the fact that our own sinful nature played a role in the need to Sacrifice of the Spotless Lamb… Not only were we there with the throngs of men…we are...in our sinfulness…the throngs of angry men who still call out… who still stir the pot of sin…yelling out … “Crucify Him!….Crucify Him!” Adding the weight of our sins to the burden that Christ carried… carried, and bore under the weight of the Cross… the Cross of Redemption.
The Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion is not some made up story…it is not just some random reading…It is a revelation of the Truth and it speaks to each of us personally… it is not meant to be a distant far off, foreign text…. It should be speaking to us…right here, close to home… right here in our hearts and souls. And it should remind us of all the times we have chosen sin over good….
It is a somber day…this Holy Saturday…when the faithful are called to remember… Urged to unite ourselves with the Sorrowful Heart of our Dear Blessed Mother and the pain She was called to endure….for our good... Throughout these forty days of Lent we have been called to repent and to amend our lives, in order that we can fully be who God created us to be…We have to understand the enormity of our sin.…the enormity of Christ’s Sacrifice for us. Each of us. You. And me…. we have to understand the cost… the price that was paid…we have to wrap our hearts around it, if we want to really have a good Easter… If we really want to experience the joy that Easter will bring, we have to finish This Way of Cross. We have to follow as Jesus’ body is taken down from the Cross and placed in a borrowed tomb... The Church reminds us to use these final hours to wait patiently outside the tomb… with Jesus’ Mother Mary and the faithful Apostles…To wait quietly, in prayer and contemplation…as the world grows in its darkness near the unopened tomb… Aching for the promises of the Lord…longing for Christ’s Resurrection and the promises of Easter.
Christ’s Seven Last Words…I was an adult before I heard that there is such a devotion. On Good Friday while we prepare ourselves for Christ’s death on the Cross… it is one of the most perfect ways of uniting yourself to the agony that Christ endured on the Cross. This devotion may be elaborate or it may be very simple. It also may take place in the home or in the Church. I have just provided a simple layout of the ‘Seven Last Words’ or rather the ‘seven last phrases,’ which are Christ’s Last Words as recorded in the Sacred Scripture. I have also provided a picture to go with each. A very simple meditation would be to read the words and just meditate on the picture and what Christ’s words stir in your heart. A more in depth devotion would be to read the Gospel passages which the phrases are pulled from. Either way, it is sure to stir your heart and unite your soul closer to the Lord’s Passion.
Remember, today is nine days before Divine Mercy Sunday, so if you want to do the Novena of the Divine Mercy, today is the day to begin. The Divine Mercy Chaplet prayers and info on the novena can be found in this link. To read more thoughts about Good Friday, click here to read my post from last year. May you have a blessed Good Friday.
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
“Woman, behold thy son.” To the disciple, “Behold your mother.” (Luke 19:26-27)
“My God, My God, Why have You abandoned Me?” (Mark 15:34)
“I thirst.” (John 19:28)
“It is finished.” John 19:30
Just four days after His triumphant ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, Jesus celebrates the Passover Feast with His disciples… what is referred to as the Last Supper. It is what we celebrate on Holy Thursday, it is the beginning of the Sacred Triduum… the official start to the most sacred of days that reveal to the Faithful the actions of Christ’s redemption. This Sacred Triduum includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It begins with the morning prayers on Thursday and ends at sundown on Holy Saturday, just prior to the Easter Vigil.
In most areas, there is a special Chrism Mass held at the Cathedral where all the priests, deacons, seminarians and the Bishop join together so that the Bishop can bless all of the Chrism Oils which will be used throughout the coming year to celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Extreme unction and the consecration of Altars and Churches. In our diocese the Chrism Mass is celebrated on Wednesday of Holy Week. If you ever have an opportunity to attend one, please do, as it is a beautiful Mass to celebrate. As we watched all the priests enter into the Cathedral, along with all the deacons and the seminarians following behind, it was truly a cause for joy…. a cause for great hope in the future of our Holy Church. To see so many men and young men intent on serving the Lord… intent on serving His Church with their all…with their everything. It was a reminder that we need to continue to pray for these men and for more holy men to answer God’s call to a vocation to the Holy Priesthood. But before I stray too far off topic, let’s get back to Holy Thursday….
It can be called Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. The words Maundy comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum‘ which means commandment. It is the first word of the Gospel acclamation:
“Mandátum novum do vobis dicit Dóminus, ut diligátis invicem, sicut diléxi vos.” -“I give you anew commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.” – John 13:34
These are the very words Christ spoke to His apostles at the Last Supper. When they had celebrated the Last Supper, He washed each of the apostles feet. He did this to help prepare them for their priesthood. It was too show them how they were to serve one another. There is far more to the act of washing the apostles feet than most people understand. The ceremony stretches all the way back to ancient times, and is actually rooted in the Old Testament. It is connected to the fact that these men were chosen by God to become His first disciples…they were going to join themselves to Him in a special way. It is a sign of their marital union with the Lord. It is more than the symbolic sign of humility. There is more to it than just being at the service of others. But so many have reduced it to just that. They have taken this deliberate action of Christ and reduced it to a simple act of humility. It is precisely for this very reason that for so many years in the Church there were only men permitted to sit and have their feet washed. It was to signify that this was a bond of the priesthood…not just an outward symbol of humility.
While it is definitely true that we should all practice this same type of humility and service to one another, and that in fact we all are welcome to serve the Lord…to follow Christ... We are not all called to this type of priesthood. Choosing to wash the feet of those who have no knowledge of this rich history, could also be viewed as a means of lessening the initial importance of what Christ did in the Upper room… where He was surrounded only by His selected disciples. As faithful Catholics we should hope to follow the rich Traditions that have set the Catholic Church apart from the rest of the world throughout the centuries. We must remember that we were created for far greater things than this world could ever offer…And at some point, we must separate ourselves from the political correctness that has consumed the hearts of man…and turned them away from the Heart of the Lord…
After the washing of the feet, the priest takes off his chasuble and vests in a white cope. Returning to the Altar, he incenses the Sacred Hosts in the ciborium. Then, following behind the servers who are carrying the Crucifix and the candles, he processes around the Church, then places the ciborium in a side tabernacle, where the Body of Christ will remain ‘entombed’ until the the Liturgy of Christ’s Passion on Good Friday. These are the Sacred Hosts which will be distributed to the faithful on Good Friday during the Liturgy and the ‘tomb’ will indeed become empty and remain so, until the Saturday night vigil.
It is a very somber time in the Church. Most Churches remain open into the late hours of the night… Allowing for the faithful pray, while the Altar clothes and linens are stripped away. Psalms may be recited, as all these symbols of Christ’s Presence are covered or removed from sight. Removing these outward symbols helps us to more fully enter into Christ’s Passion. It helps us to enter with Christ into the Garden of Gethsemane. It helps us also to prepare ourselves for His imminent arrest and trials which we will listen to tomorrow during the reading of the Liturgy of His Passion and Crucifixion…
The tabernacle lamps are extinguished and the bells are silent… the Church is cloaked in darkness and in quiet. It is beginning to give us the full sense of what the world would be like without Christ….With this emptiness surrounding us…an aching grows in our hearts as we leave the Church in silence…..dipping our fingers into the font, we realize that even they are bare…we have nothing to cross ourselves with…we have nothing to wash away even the smallest of our venial sins…It is a scary thought to think for these next few hours….we are on our own….The only Holy Water that remains in the Church is a small amount that has been reserved to bless the fire on Holy Saturday or for an emergency sick call if needed.
By meditating on the Gospels of Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22 and John 13; it will help us recall all of Jesus’ actions in these coming days. To read my post from last year which details the Three Pillars of the Catholic faith which Christ gave us on Holy Thursday, please click here.
As a side note, in the Traditional Catholic Church an plenary indulgence was offered to those who would recite the Tantum Ergo on this special day.
|Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui
Praestet fides supplementum
|Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe’r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
Laus et jubilatio
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio. A-men
|To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
On this Tuesday of Holy Week, when we are to be preparing ourselves for the Holy Triduum with prayer and fasting, the calendar of the Holy Catholic Church remembers Saint Matthew of Beauvais, as a martyr for the Faith.
Saint Matthew was from Agnetz, France. He took the Cross from Bishop Roger of Beauvais and set off to battle in the First Crusade, which had recently been called by Pope Urban II to aid the Byzantine Emperor, in order to help free the Holy Land which had come under the siege of Islamic domination. Since St. Matthew of Beauvais, served in the First Crusade, I just wish to point out that this Crusade was called as a last measure to protect the Catholic faithful from the onslaught of Muslim invaders that were running rampant and threatening to destroy the Christian way of life.
We should know that there was a time, when good, Christian, God fearing men recognized that it was their duty to defend the Church and Her faithful. Over the years there has been so much misinformation concerning the Catholic Church and the Crusades… So much of it is just blatant lies that seek only to attack the Church.
Many of the men who went and fought in these Crusades, did so as a means of making reparations for their sins. These men were good citizens, and many of them had wealth and power…they had much to lose, so to speak. But they also knew were their loyalty lie. They knew that they were not living the Faith the way that God wanted them to live and as a means of repenting for their sins, they offered to fight in Her defense. Most of the men who joined these battles did so as to bring Glory and honor to God. The use of the sword was not a means of converting, but rather was looked upon as a last ditch measure in sparing their homelands…in protecting the Faith. And although sometimes, these men carried things a bit too far, they were obligated to act and defend the Church. In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“(2265) Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.”
So before you dismiss this saint because he participated in the Crusades read about what the Church teaches before casting him aside. But now...let’s get back to Matthew of Beauvatis… and what made him saint.
During the Crusade he was captured by the Saracens, which were the Arab Muslims. Along with the other captured Christians, he was tortured and imprisoned. He was promised freedom if he would denounce the Faith. When given the offer he told them he would consider their request and give them his answer on Friday, which was Good Friday. Although St. Matthew pretended to think about their offer, his decision had already been made, and when Good Friday came along they brought him out of prison to the town square to hear his answer.
He said to them, “I give my life to Him who laid down His for mankind.” And with that, he was immediately beheaded, gaining for the soldier the red crown of martyrdom, and so for Matthew of Beauvais, it was a Good Friday turned great, the year was 1098.
What do you think? Would you be willing to stand up for your faith? Can you imagine if one night you go to bed and in the morning when you wake up, you find that radical Muslims have invaded your homeland… Destroying your towns and many of the homes… violence is erupting everywhere. These angry mobs are going from town to town killing people… specifically the Christians… and gathering up the rest. Before you know what is going on, they come into your town, many people have already been killed…their throats cut… You are one of the lucky ones…they round you up and throw you into a prison with the other Christians. They tell you that all they want from you is to denounce your Faith. They aren’t asking for conversion…they just want to hear you say the words that denounce Christ. They ‘just’ want you to deny the Truth….
To make things simple, they even give you the phrase you are to say: “I denounce Christ and all His teachings.” Seven little words. That’s all they want… Would you do it? Or would you stand up for The Faith? Stand up for the Truth… Well, its precisely moments like these that separate the saints from the rest of us. As we make our way towards Good Friday… towards the Cross of Calvary, we need to meditate upon Christ’s Seven Last Words before we make our decision… And we need to pray for the intercession of all the saints who made the journey with Christ, shedding their blood for His Holy Church. Are you prepared? Can you make the journey that Saint Matthew made? How would you respond? It’s something to think about, that’s for sure.
As a faithful Christian, as a faithful Catholic, I’d like to think that I would be able to place my life in the hands of the Lord, trusting in His goodness and His mercy. Trusting that He would pour the graces upon me in that particular moment, to help me stand when I feel too weak to even breath. Because I recognize the reality of my own inadequacies, sometimes this scenario seems impossible…for I am too much of a coward on my own…
But I also know…that God is constant…and His goodness endures and that ‘with His strength I can do all things’. So on this Tuesday of Holy Week, on this memorial of St. Matthew of Beauvais, I am going to humbly pray that God will keep this brave saint’s name at the forefront of my soul so that if I am ever confronted with a situation that calls for this kind of courage, this level of bravery…. I may invoke the help and intercession of this great and courageous saint, so that I might face the enemy standing, praising God and giving Him the Glory…. because on my own, I would surely fall. Saint Matthew of Beauvais, pray for us.
Palm Sunday, the sixth and final Sunday of Lent, is a day of mixed emotions for Christians. First we gather in the narthex of the church and watch as the priest blesses the palm fronds that have been gathered for the celebration. After the blessing we are each handed a palm and walk into the main body of the church while the choir sings a joyous song…“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” It feels a bit triumphant…the people are hailing Jesus as their Messiah….
Most of us are smiling as we walk in waving our palms, raising our voices… Jesus has arrived, humbly, on the back of a donkey…and we are here to welcome Him. The end of lent is here…Holy Week is upon us… Easter is on the horizon… But before we can rejoice, we must enter into the suffering…we must unite ourselves, as best we can, with Christ’s suffering on the Cross and as Mass begins we are immediately taken to the garden of Gethsemane, with the Responsorial Psalm: “My God, My God…why have you abandoned me?”
The Gospel takes us further on the path of Jesus’ journey as he approaches the very reason for His Life… His destination with the Cross on Calvary. We read about how the chief priests and elders are anxious to kill Jesus and become angered by the woman who has ‘wasted’ the expensive oil to anoint His feet. It is a long reading.… And soon we are witnessing the betrayal of Jesus by one of His own disciples…. It is tumultuous journey… The crowds which had just previously welcomed Him, have become angered…Evil is brewing and there is chaos everywhere… The mobs are shouting with voices that now hold no joy…As we stand there listening, it is hard to maintain our composure as we hear the cries of mobs as they yell, “Crucify Him… Crucify Him…” But, it has to be hard, and it should cause us to cringe. Sin had entered the world…and whether we want to admit it or not…. we helped write this part of the story…we are just as much to blame as the Sanhedrin.
We have to listen to the readings so that we can prepare ourselves for what comes next. We must not allow ourselves to skip over Holy Week…going from the joy of Palm Sunday right into the joy of Easter. No, as faithful Catholics we must endure the journey. We must remain alert and allow ourselves to meditate upon these words…we mustn’t fall asleep… We must travel this path of Holy Week. Side by side with Christ. All the way to the foot of the Cross…if we can…It is a difficult journey. Today’s Gospel reading is just a small taste of the pain that we will have to face. The truth behind it all. We can not blame this crime on anyone else. It has our DNA all over it… our fallen nature is evident… Each one of us is marked with the stain of original sin…and the blood of the Spotless Lamb, is on our hands.
But God is awesome. He knew us before we were even born. Just like He knew our sins were going to cost Him dearly… He knew that this ransom could only be fulfilled by the blood of His only begotten Son… Jesus, the New Sacrificial Lamb… He knew all this and still… He bore it all. Accepting everything we could dish out, all of our inequities… He bore them all…. with patience…with humility and with love. His Love. So that we could live. He is that Awesome.
Cleansed by His Blood we are made new. Made clean. His blood is the remedy for our sin. But as Christians who already know why we were made…we should use this time in prayer and take a deep breath as we finish up our celebrations of Palm Sunday… Holy Week is an opportunity for each of us to really dive into Christ’s Passion… going all in…as it were…so that after witnessing His death and suffering on the Cross…we will be ready… both physically and spiritually to rejoice…Really rejoice… in the promises of Easter.
In some areas of the world, the Catholic Faithful pay homage to Our Lady of Sorrows of Castelpetroso every year on March 22nd. It is the story about two women who were tending their sheep when they saw a vision of the Blessed Mother. In this first vision, the Blessed Mother was holding the dead body of her Beloved Son, Jesus in her arms. It was very similar to the statue which we all know as the Pieta. In the vision, the Blessed Mother’s face was full of sorrow and I believe she was even crying tears of blood.
In the second vision, She appeared to them with the seven swords piercing her Sorrowful Heart… As I researched the story, (which I hope to write a complete post about) I found myself gazing upon the most sorrowful face of our Dear Mother….and looking at the images, I was overcome with the fact that Our Blessed Mother…the Most Beloved Mother of Jesus…a sinless creature, chosen by God from the beginning of time.… suffered a most immeasurable pain. A pain that would bring many of us to our knees… a pain so intense that it would cause many of us to question our very Faith in God.
All of the artistic renderings I viewed had one thing in common, they were all trying to convey just how much the Blessed Mother’s whole being was consumed with pain and compassion for the torments that Her Son would endure for us… It struck me, that today so many Christians today are preaching just the opposite… they preach a message of happiness and prosperity… According to them, if we love God, He will comfort us and keep us snug and happy….giving us physical blessings that show us just how much He loves us. An error filled message that says, that if we are good and do what God wants, that He will show us, as well as the rest of the world, just how pleasing we are to Him, by rewarding us with ease and plenty… by taking away our hurts and blessing us with happiness on earth. Somehow, as Christians, we have strayed from the teachings of Christ…from the Truth that we all will have to endure our crosses...our sufferings.…and Like the Blessed Mother we may even have moments when our hearts will feel as if they have just been pierced with a pain so deep that it causes us to shudder just to imagine it…
We have begun to accept the twisted notions of the world. Messages orchestrated by the very devil himself. These are messages that strive to separate us from the truth that Christ preached… from the Truth that Christ shared with His disciples and His Own Blessed Mother. There is a painful reality to it all. At times, your knees may buckle…you may fall flat on your face and feel that there is no hope left for you… But this is where the world has gotten it all wrong. This is where Christ will find you and lift you up towards His chest….His Heart …beating only with the love He has for us…each of us…you and me…
It is precisely in the moments of suffering that we are closest to Him. Closest to His own Mother. We must know this. Accept this as the Truth. We are called to suffer…some more so than others…and some will suffer in different ways and at different levels. But we must know that even of we pray for God to heal us or for God to heal a loved one who is very dear to us… Sometimes the pain continues…and the suffering goes on.
We must understand that even if He doesn’t answer the prayers with the answers that we want, that doesn’t mean we have been abandoned. That doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love us. In fact, if we look at the face of His Mother…look at the immeasurable pain that she endured…was allowed to endure….even though she was the Mother of God…. even though she was pure and holy…even though she was spotless from the stain of sin…He could have stopped it, after all He is God. But He did not. He allowed her to suffer. He allowed for His most precious Mother to endure such unimaginable pain as an example for us…as a model for our own suffering…our own redemptive actions… In order to become more like God…so that one day we may find our way to be with Him in Heaven…we must imitate Him in everything…His love…His Charity, His Mercy and His pain.
Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows
By St. Bridget
O Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Mother of God, who didst endure a martyrdom of love and grief, beholding the sufferings and sorrows of Jesus! Thou didst co-operate in the benefit of my redemption by thy innumerable afflictions and by offering to the Eternal Father His only-begotten Son as a holocaust and victim of propitiation for my sins. I thank thee for the unspeakable love which led thee to deprive thyself of the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus, true God and true Man, to save me, a sinner. Oh! make use of the unfailing intercession of thy sorrows with the Father and the Son. that I may steadfastly amend my life and never again crucify my loving Redeemer by new sins; arid that, persevering till death in His grace, I may obtain eternal life through the merits of His Cross and Passion. Amen.
Mother of love, of sorrow, and of mercy, pray for us.