Tenebrae

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During the Sacred Triduum , the Matins (now the Office of readings)  and Lauds (Morning Prayer) of the Divine Office are often sung in a service known as the Tenebrae service. The service is named Tenebrae because is celebrated in darkness, the name comes from the Latin word for darkness.
During the Matins (now the Office of readings) on Good Friday, one by one, the candles are extinguished in the Church, leaving the congregation in total darkness, and in a silence that is punctuated by the strepitus (a loud clatter intended to evoke the earthquake that was said to happen at the moment of death) meant to evoke the convulsion of nature at the death of Christ. It has also been described as the sound of the tomb door closing.

(adapted from catholic.org)

See the source image

from the Sisters of Carmel:

The Agony in the Garden The name “Tenebrae” has been given because this Office is celebrated in the hours of darkness, formerly in the evening or just after midnight, now the early morning hours. There is an impressive ceremony, peculiar to this Office, which tends to perpetuate its name. There is placed in the sanctuary, near the altar, a large triangular candlestick holding fifteen candles. At the end of each psalm or canticle, one of these fifteen candles is extinguished, but the one which is placed at the top of the triangle is left lighted. During the singing of the Benedictus (the Canticle of Zachary at the end of Lauds), six other candles on the altar are also put out. Then the master of ceremonies takes the lighted candle from the triangle and holds it upon the altar while the choir repeats the antiphon after the canticle, after which she hides it behind the altar during the recitation of the Christus antiphon and final prayer. As soon as this prayer is finished, a noise is made with the seats of the stalls in the choir, which continues until the candle is brought from behind the altar, and shows, by its light, that the Office of Tenebrae is over.

 

Hoshanah in the highest

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Holy, holy, holy
Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Hosanna is a plea for help: Save! Deliver! Rescue! Defend! Preserve!

Sometimes it is good to look back at Judaism when thinking about Christianity. Psalm Sunday commemorates Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The chant “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” The word Hosanna is important on this day. Hosanna is a plea for help: Save! Deliver! Rescue! Defend! Preserve! The day also involves processions, and the waving of branches of palm or willow. Willow is used often where palms do not grow. I think England calls this day Willow Sunday. There is a Jewish day that also involves the word Hosanna, and the waving of branches, and processions. It is the last day of Sukkot. As a side note Pope Benedict linked the Transfiguration to Sukkot , the similarity is illustrated with the proposed pitching of tents. The following (including links!) comes from a collection of Jewish websites explaining the origins and customs of the Jewish holy day  “Hoshanah Rabbah” Its a thought, not a commentary. I found the similarity between Hoshanah Rabbah and Palm Sunday curious. The investigation was quick with only a few similarities sketched out for my notes.

Hoshanah Rabbah,  the seventh day of Sukkot is a semi-holiday in its own right. Still counted among the days of Hol Hamoed (intermediate days of the festival), this day’s name means “the great hoshanah.” A hoshanah is a series of seven liturgical poems calling upon God to rescue and redeem the Jewish people, primarily by sending rain. Hoshanah Rabbah was viewed by the rabbis of the Talmud as a mini-Yom Kippur, a day on which the entire Jewish community is judged by God to be worthy or not of the seasonal rains. All seven hoshanot prayers are recited in seven hakkafot, or processions, around the sanctuary. At the conclusion of the seven processions, a special ritual is conducted in which the branches of the willow (the lulav ) are struck upon the ground. This is a symbolic attempt to rid ourselves of any remaining sins (the leaves representing these transgressions) that might influence God’s decision to send the seasonal rains.On the evening following Hoshanah Rabbah, the festival of Shemini Atzeret begins. While for many Jews, Hoshanah Rabbah is the last day one shakes the lulav and etrog and dwells in the sukkah , a number of traditional Jews continue to dwell in the sukkah through Shemini Atzeret.

The Lulav: a bundle of branches representing three species — willow, myrtle and palm — which are shaken together with the etrog on Sukkot.

 

 

Mass on a weekday of a very important week.. .

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Here it is. Holy Thursday. It’s Holy Thursday and that is the day of the Mass of the Lords Supper. The Last Supper, the day painted by Leonardo Di Vinci. It is the day often referred to as the day which Jesus instituted His Mass; the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, the Divine Liturgy, the Liturgy of Word and Eucharist. It is the day of the Mass, and so it is a good time to discuss a most fundamental part of Christianity. This is the day that begins the tradition of the Mass, and a day itself that has its traditions.

Mass is discussed often. For many the discussion revolves against the debate between pre and post Vatican-two practices. Those discussions involve language, and music, and tradition. Might this be a good day to survey some of these topics? For a start what about the debate of language?

The debate of language, for those within the jurisdiction of Vatican-two, revolves around two languages. They are Latin and “the vernacular.” The vernacular is simply the language spoken by a regional congregation, French in France and English in England. That list goes on, but why the debate and why Latin? Let’s start with Latin.

It is the language of the Latin Rite Church, commonly called Roman Catholics. (Rumor has it that Roman Catholics was a term that came into use after the protestant rebellion.) The Latin Rite comes under the authority of the bishop of Rome, and he is the one that sits in the chair of Saint Peter. It is the language of the ancient Roman Empire. It is one of the languages the Bible was first translated into. It is the language of tradition and history. It is the original language the Latin Rite Mass was written in, and the language its priests were taught in. That common universal language allowed those priests to bring that Mass to the multitude of varying tongues. Often those people were illiterate, and it was the priests that gained the education. That education with regards to liturgy took its form in one language. It had a practicality, and that practicality is often argued today. Today many gain an education in every language. Why in this modern day cling to an ancient language that no one speaks?

For one good reason. It is one of the languages of the Church. It is not the only language of the Church, it is one of the fundamental languages of the Church. The others are Greek and Hebrew. Might one good reason for keeping Latin in the Latin Rite be that it is the language which that lung off the Church is in charge of? For certain the Greek Orthodox Christians can curate their tongue, and the Eastern Orthodox can take charge of Hebrew. To the Roman Catholics is the responsibility of their ancient language. To translate from that language requires a knowledge of that language. It is part of that liturgies origins, shouldn’t it be included? Should the entire Mass of the Latin Rite take place in that language? Debatable. Should Latin be ignored in a Latin Rite Mass? But why, it make no sense! It’s the Mass of the Lords Supper, it’s a good day for this discussion.

Now to the supper, the Last supper. Some argue that is the day from which the Mass takes its form. Their term is the “table of the Lord.” They see that artists (Di Vinci) table. A dinner table, the Feast of the Lord. There is something else, it occurs the next day. It is the event that gives that table its meaning. It is not the food that is consumed from the table, but the sacrifice that takes place at it. That table is an altar of sacrifice. An altar, and not a table. Language is one part of a debate, table versus altar is the second. To some the emphasis is on the table, and the sacrifice should be forgotten. Yes, the food is important! It is the body and blood of our LORD Jesus the Christ! They turn the table around, and disregard the Crucifix. Catholics use a Crucifix, not just the cross. It is a sacrifice. The liturgy of the word describes it, proclaims it, and the Mass repeats it. The Crucifix is not ignored, neither is the Priests. The Priests, in persona Christi. In the person of Christ. They are the ones that sit about that table with the LORD. They, the Apostles,  know the Temple altar, and will learn of Jesus’s sacrifice on it. Priests are the successors’ of the Apostles. This day the priesthood is formed.Back to table versus altar, is it either one or the other? Wrong! It is both! Both. Eucharist is important, it it the summit of the Mass, a pinnacle. It is true food and drink, nourishment. The Body and Blood of our Lord. The Cross too should not be slighted, for on that Cross is our redemption and salvation. It is the supreme sacrifice. Altar and Table.

The initiation of the Priesthood, something celebrated today. This Last Supper gives instruction “do this in memory of Me”. The bread and wine, the Body and Blood. Finally. The washing of the feet.

The washing of the feet is something that has become the focal point of the modern tradition of this particular days Mass. Originally it was something (me thinks)  between Priests, Bishops, and Seminarians? Or perhaps between the clergy and their flock. Who sits around the table at the Last Supper? The twelve apostles. Twelve men learning to be disciples and priests and bishops and popes. An institutional hierarchy. Then a more modern Pope (1955) declared; pick twelve “upstanding men” from the community to have their feet washed during Mass. That Pope said this at the start of the 1960-70 age of women’s liberation and the feminist movement. Protests start, and continue. But what does the ancient Latin documents tell of the purpose of this event, more importantly what does the gospel say? The history books, do they mention this ordeal? Might it be wise for someone read them? Is the modern tradition wrong? Should it take place in another time and place? Is the modern version of the washing of feet scripturally and liturgically correct? The tradition is truly varied throughout the branches of Christianity. What do the documents say, including Vatican-two? This is the Mass of the Lords Supper, shouldn’t it be done properly? Scholarship is required. Oh, the washing of feet is an option and an opinion. It has morphed into an argument about who is entitled to have their feet washed, a social statement. Pope Francis emphasizes the poor and marginalized, and often does so outside the context of the Mass. Applauses!

This Mass of Jesus Christ is something that differentiates Catholics. It is something Byzantines put an extraordinary effort into preserving. It is something that the Protestant denominations have tried to deconstruct and demolish. Today the Latin Rite struggles with it in a battle between traditionalists and progressives. I don’t even touch on some of the minor rites of the Mass. The LORDS Mass is described in scripture, and is the heart of the Church. That might be why it is so often debated. Each has their own opinions, but what did Christ say? Something to think about. That’s what the day commemorates. The Mass, Eucharist and the Priesthood. The Mass of the LORDS Supper.

Let’s enter into Holy week

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Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and some people pave His way with palm fronds. Palm Sunday, and Holy Week begins.

This is the opening scene. People gather into Jerusalem for the Passover, and it becomes a bustling city. People come from all around, imagine New York City on New Year’s (or Saint Patrick’s Day). People come from all over. Some are the followers of Jesus, and some are unaware of the activity that surrounds Christ. Others are administrators of the city, and still others are administrators of the religious celebration. People in society come from all backgrounds. Sometimes we think we are the center of attention. We think of those placing palm fronds in front of Christ.

The gospel reminds us of those that opposed Christ, The Sanhedrin, and the Temple officials. Then there are the Romans who are on the lookout for conflict. Finally there are the disciples. There is Judas, the one who betrays Christ. There is Thomas and his doubts. There is Peter, fearful and indecisive. There are those curious, and those committed to His message. They are disciples of varying degree. Like the disciples, there are those unbaptized into His preaching. Curious perhaps? Of course the ones that reject the Lord outright, the opponents. Crowds are variable and Jesus does not ride into a uniform opinion.

Committed, curious, unsure, fearful, and hatred. As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he embraces them all. But what is the point? This is simply a description of the event. The point is this, everyone is in that crowd. The point is that every opinion and emotion that stood in that spot that day, walks on the earth today. Every opinion and emotion that was on the roadside then, is present now.

The question becomes where do we stand, where do I stand? Who am I in the crowd? Jesus, he made himself known. He preached His gospel without duplicity. The question is who am I, where do I stand, who do I take after? Its Holy week. Palm Sunday. Now I wonder who should be my guide. To that I answer Mary, she never left his side. This is a long week, and the most important week of the year. I should be present, and a willing participant. I should place myself in that crowd, I should examine at where I stand. That’s why the palm branches were handed out, so I can take my place in the crowd and witness what’s being done for me. It’s important.

(PS: lets not forget the donkey, that creature has been mentioned by many.)

Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass of the Easter Vigil

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“Peter ran to the tomb” (Lk 24:12). What thoughts crossed Peter’s mind and stirred his heart as he ran to the tomb? The Gospel tells us that the eleven, including Peter, had not believed the testimony of the women, their Easter proclamation. Quite the contrary, “these words seemed to them an idle tale” (v. 11). Thus there was doubt in Peter’s heart, together with many other worries: sadness at the death of the beloved Master and disillusionment for having denied him three times during his Passion.

There is, however, something which signals a change in him: after listening to the women and refusing to believe them, “Peter rose” (v. 12). He did not remain sedentary, in thought; he did not stay at home as the others did. He did not succumb to the sombre atmosphere of those days, nor was he overwhelmed by his doubts. He was not consumed by remorse, fear or the continuous gossip that leads nowhere. He was looking for Jesus, not himself. He preferred the path of encounter and trust. And so, he got up, just as he was, and ran towards the tomb from where he would return “amazed” (v. 12). This marked the beginning of Peter’s resurrection, the resurrection of his heart. Without giving in to sadness or darkness, he made room for hope: he allowed the light of God to enter into his heart, without smothering it.

The women too, who had gone out early in the morning to perform a work of mercy, taking the perfumed ointments to the tomb, had the same experience. They were “frightened and bowed their faces”, and yet they were deeply affected by the words of the angel: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (v. 5).

We, like Peter and the women, cannot discover life by being sad, bereft of hope. Let us not stay imprisoned within ourselves, but let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord so that he may enter and grant us life. Let us give him the stones of our rancour and the boulders of our past, those heavy burdens of our weaknesses and falls. Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our anguish. This is the first stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves. May the Lord free us from this trap, from being Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the centre of our lives.

We see and will continue to see problems both within and without. They will always be there. But tonight it is important to shed the light of the Risen Lord upon our problems, and in a certain sense, to “evangelize” them. Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control us; we must cry out to them: the Lord “is not here, but has risen!” (v. 6). He is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.

This is the foundation of our hope, which is not mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous. Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him. This hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). The Paraclete does not make everything look appealing. He does not remove evil with a magic wand. But he pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin, death and fear. Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:39).

The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living. After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life. There is so necessary today. However, we must not proclaim ourselves. Rather, as joyful servants of hope, we must announce the Risen One by our lives and by our love; otherwise we will be only an international organization full of followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope for which the world longs.

How can we strengthen our hope? The liturgy of this night offers some guidance. It teaches us to remember the works of God. The readings describe God’s faithfulness, the history of his love towards us. The living word of God is able to involve us in this history of love, nourishing our hope and renewing our joy. The Gospel also reminds us of this: in order to kindle hope in the hearts of the women, the angel tells them: “Remember what [Jesus] told you” (v. 6). Let us not forget his words and his works, otherwise we will lose hope. Let us instead remember the Lord, his goodness and his life-giving words which have touched us. Let us remember them and make them ours, to be sentinels of the morning who know how to help others see the signs of the Risen Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is risen! Let us open our hearts to hope and go forth. May the memory of his works and his words be the bright star which directs our steps in the ways of faith towards the Easter that will have no end.