Tag Archives: liturgy

Looking East

As we continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are persecuted for the faith we are given an invitation to appreciate the liturgical richness of that ancient Christian heritage. This video gives us an insight into the beauty of the Melkite liturgy that has continued to profess the faith with great beauty and dignity in the presence of the ugliness and brutality of violence.

Celebration of the Passion of the Lord

Celebratio Passionis Domini

The Liturgy of this day is marked with bold simplicity and austerity of sight and sound. In fact the church in accord with ancient tradition does not celebrate the sacraments at all except anointing of the sick and penance.

When you enter into the church it will be completely bare.  The altar that was stripped the night before is completely bare: without a cross, without candles and without clothes. Why? The church is bare so the words of the Gospel tract resonate deeply:

Christus factus est pro nobis obœdiens usque ad mortem autem crucis. Propter quod et Deus exaltávit illum: et dedit illi nomen quod est super omne nomen.
Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name. – Phil 2:8-9

The church gathers at three o’clock. Why? This is the hour the Lord handed over his spirit and died.

The priest will approach the altar in silence and make a solemn prostration, and he prays, omitting the invitation “Let us Pray.” Why ? Once again the austerity and silence point out the bold simplicity with which we commemorate the Passion of the Lord.

The priest according to the Roman Missal is to remove his shoes for the Adoration. Why? It reminds us that our adoration is a penitential procession during which we bring all our sins to the cross to proclaim the mercy of God incarnate in Jesus. In the early days of the Roman Church the Pope on Good Friday would walk barefoot through the streets of Rome from the Lateran to the church of the Holy Cross and there he would adore the cross.

We come and adore the Cross by a simple genuflection and another sign of veneration such as a kiss. Why? Egeria narrates that in the fourth century in Jerusalem, the people would pass one by one and bow down and kiss the cross.

The celebration of the Lord’s Passion is very simple and thus preparation is of utmost importance. The church invites us to sustain the Paschal Fast so may we be sparse in the food we take and restrained in the words we speak, and be so bold as not to even turn on the TV or radio or even be concerned about the news, because the world as we know it is passing away. Today let us lay aside all earthly cares and focus on Jesus.  Consider praying the Office of Readings and the Morning Prayer of the church. Read the readings and prescribed chant of the Solemn Commemoration. All these efforts that require intention and perseverance ready us to adore the Cross of the Savior through whom we have forgiveness of sins through no merit of our own.


The Solemn Celebration

The commemoration of the Passion of the Lord consists of three parts, namely, the Liturgy of the Word, the Adoration of the Cross and Holy Communion. The priest enters the church in silence and following ancient Roman practice makes a solemn prostration before the altar. Everyone kneels in silent prayer.  The readings prescribed are Is. 52:13-53:12, Ps. 31:2,6,12-13,15-16,17,25; Heb. 4:14-16;5:7-9; and Jn. 18:1-19:42, and the Passion according to Saint John is proclaimed. The Lord addresses us in the proclamation of the Word and then we who have been transformed by that proclamation offer ten Solemn Intercessions.

The second part of the Liturgy is the Adoration of the Holy Cross. Once again Egeria, the fourth century pilgrim to Jerusalem is our first witness to this custom. The Deacon accompanied by the ministers with lighted candles goes to the front door of the church.  The cross is veiled and is carried through the church to the altar.   The priest uncovers a little of its upper part and elevates it while beginning the chant:

Ecce lignum Crucis, in quo salus mundi pepéndit.
Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.

To which the people respond:  Venite adoremus.

At the end of the singing . all kneel and for a brief moment adore in silence. The priest then uncovers the right arm of the cross and chants: Ecce Lignum and then finally uncovers the entire cross entirely and chants once again Ecce Lignum.

Venerating the CrossAfter the priest has  venerated the cross, all follow in a procession to show reverence to the cross.

During the adoration, the Improperia are joined to the Trisagion, a practice that can be found as early as the ninth century.  The Trisagion:

Holy is God, Holy and Strong, Holy and living forever!

has been chanted each Lenten Sunday before the Gospel and it culminates on this day. The church chants the Trisagion in Greek and Latin on this day.

Hagios o Theos, Sanctus Deus, Holy is God,
Hagios Ischyros, Sanctus Fortis, Holy and Mighty,
Hagios Athanatos, eleison himas. Sanctus immortális, miserére nobis. Holy and Immortal One, have mercy on us.

Imbedded in the Missal are beautiful chants that express our faith so beautifully and merit contemplation.  For example the Crucem Tuam inspired from the Byzantine tradition:

Crucem tuam adoramus Domine,
resurrectionem tuam laudamus Domine.
Laudamus et glorificamus.
resurrectionem tuam laudamus Domine.

We adore your Cross, O Lord,
we praise and glorify your holy Resurrection,
for behold, because of the wood of a tree
joy has come to the whole world.

then there is the beautiful Crux Fidelis. After the adoration is completed, the altar is prepared for the third part of the Liturgy, holy communion.  This communion on Good Friday of our union with Our Lord in his glorious passion. So at the end of this solemn commemoration we bow our heads and the priest prays:

May abundant blessing, O Lord, we pray,
descend upon your people,
who have honored the Death of your Son
in the hope of their resurrection:
may pardon come,
comfort be given,
holy faith increase,
and everlasting redemption be made secure.
Through Christ our Lord.

For an amazing view of what Christ perhaps saw from the Cross, please see Monsignor’ Lanes blog post today, A Blessed Good Friday.

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

To think of a three-day commemoration of the death of the Lord, his repose in the tomb and his resurrection, when it has become commonplace to speak of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday takes a little adjustment in our minds on how to calculate the time in such a way that we see the unity of the Triduum, and not disconnected celebrations. One way to see the unity of the Triduum is to calculate time from sunset to sunset. From the sunset on Thursday to the sunset on Friday is one day, the first day of the Triduum: the day of the death of the Lord. This helps us to see our celebration in the context of Saint Augustine who sees the three days as Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Adrian Nocent in his book The Liturgical Year points out that “in anticipation of the Eucharist celebration that will be the climax of the Paschal Vigil, the Church reminds us on Holy Thursday evening of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.” The sacrament makes really present in time and space the one sacrifice of Christ on Calvary and his victory over death through his Resurrection.

The Collect points out a great mystery in that Christ is already celebrating at the Last supper, something that will take place only later on. As Nocent says, the Supper was truly a rendering present of what was going to happen later on the Cross. “Thus the Last Supper and our celebration of the Eucharist are alike in that they actualize the Good Friday event; they differ in that the Supper actualized what was yet to come, while our Eucharist actualize an event now past.”

Be attentive to the various signs and rituals of the Mass that point out he uniqueness of this night.

    • First of all there will be no holy water in the font. Why? The fonts are waiting to be filled with the Easter water to be blessed at the Great Vigil.
    • The tabernacle will be open and emptied with no sanctuary lamp lit. Why? These signs point once again to the Great Vigil when the sanctuary lamp will be lit from the newly-blessed Paschal Candle on the night all things are made new.
    • Bells are rung during the Gloria. Why? Because the bells await to be rung at the Gloria in excelsis at the Great Vigil. Even the organ may only be used to support singing and then with great restraint until the Gloria at the Great Vigil.
    • At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the signs and rituals are already pointing us to the Great Vigil of Easter, the premier Liturgy of the ancient Christian Church. The priest will not give a blessing at the end of Mass. Why? Once again it points the Great Vigil when he will conclude the Mass with the priestly blessing.

All these simple signs and gestures points out that on Thursday evening we begin a Liturgy that extends over the three days and concludes with the blessing at the Great Vigil.

  • After Mass even all the crosses are removed from the church and if they cannot be removed they are to be veiled. Why? To prepare us to receive the cross into the church for our adoration on Good Friday.

All the signs and symbols continue to move us forward and ever more deeply into the Paschal Mystery of which the Introit proclaims:

We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection,
through whom we are saved and delivered.

This text from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians keeps the unity of the Paschal Triduum in clear focus. We should GLORY! in the cross of Christ who was obedient unto death that God raised him on high to draw us into union with him.

The church calls us to ponder many mysteries this evening, namely the institution of the Eucharist and of the priestly order and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity. This invitation to charity is reflected in the prescribed hymn for the evening: Ubi Caritas (text, music) and the Mandatum, that is the washing of the feet. This ritual can be traced by to Jerusalem as early as the fifth century. This gesture is oriented to Christ who took the part of the servant of which the prophet Isaiah (53:11) speaks and a prophecy that will be proclaimed at the Good Friday Liturgy:

Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

The church offers such a rich fare of readings that we can derive even greater spiritual benefit if we read them in the context of the prayers and ponder them before we come to the Church.

  • Most striking this evening is the transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the altar of the Mother of God accompanied by the chant Pange Lingua ( music, text ) for adoration until Midnight.  Why Adoration?  Through adoration we are drawn into a deeper union with Our Lord.

Even if you cannot remain until Midnight, you can continue to remain in prayer and keep watch with Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. A wonderful way to keep watch is to to read what Our Lord spoke to his apostles and the Last supper as they walked to Gethsemane. Begin to read at John 13:16 and continue to read to John 18:1 where the Passion account to be read at Good Friday will begin.  As we approach the Adoration of the Cross at 3 pm on Friday, may the words of the Introit of the Mass echo in our minds and hearts:

We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection,
through whom we are saved and delivered.

Try to maintain a spirit of reflection and adoration in your homes this evening. Refrain from TV or radio and minimize social media so this night can be a night to wait and watch with the Lord until midnight when the Lord is taken and his trial begins through the night.

in med

In medieval times it was thought that a mother pelican, in a time of famine, would pierce her own breasts to feed and sustain her chicks with her own blood. Thus the pelican is a symbol of Christ, who shed his blood so that we would live