Blessed Easter To All

sunriseA few of you Eastern Hemisphere readers have already celebrated Easter Vigil as I type this. So I thought I’d go ahead and wish you a Blessed Grand Feast.

Happy Easter to all the rest of you, too, whenever you come by to visit.


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Reconciliation Lectionary: John 19:13-37

mary-the-penitent.jpgThe suffering and death of Jesus from the Passion of Saint John’s Gospel is a single offering in the Reconciliation Lectionary. Let’s read:

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out
and seated him on the judge’s bench
in the place called Stone Pavement,
in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover,
and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
“Behold, your king!”
They cried out,
“Take him away, take him away!
Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered,
“We have no king but Caesar.”
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself,
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull,
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others,
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read,
“Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”
Now many of the Jews read this inscription,
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city;
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate,
“Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
Pilate answered,
“What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus,
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares,
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless,
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another,
“Let’s not tear it,
but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “

in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother
and the disciple there whom he loved

he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side,
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true;
he knows that he is speaking the truth,
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

My own sense is that the longer the narrative the stronger the association with Holy Week. Using a long passage from the Passion doesn’t seem to be a good idea. I appreciate the focus of Good Friday and its uniqueness in the liturgical year.

John the Evangelist offers such a dramatic whole in his Passion account (all of chapters 18 & 19) that I’m also a skeptic on breaking up the narrative. Still, the twenty-five verses here are not short, nor do they give the whole story.

That leaves the question on how this passage can be used in either form I, reconciliation of a single penitent, or form II, the communal celebration of penance with individual confession and absolution. My instinct suggests it may be powerful as a personal reflection leading into the celebration of the sacrament, or as a possible “act of satisfaction” following absolution.

But if any reader has experienced this in liturgy outside of Good Friday, I’m interested in hearing about it.

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asleep in the gardenI had about a half-hour last night before rehearsing with one of the Easter Vigil cantors. A good time to pray, I thought. Opened the Bible and settled onto the couch in one of the rooms off the student lounge.

A bit later, I felt a buzz in my pocket–a text message asking where I was. I was startled to find I had missed the meeting by twenty minutes.

I apologized to Theresa for falling asleep and she had the perfect rejoinder:

So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?


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Three Days

Today is the last day of Lent. The Paschal Triduum begins with the evening liturgy of the Last Supper. In most places this is a Mass, but my friend and fellow blogger John reports that in rural Honduras, other options are observed when the priest is not present. In the States, clustered parishes combine for a centrally-located liturgy more often than not as I’ve experienced or seen promoted.

The days in question are counted as approximately seventy-two hours from Thursday evening to Easter Vespers II on Sunday evening, and not really as three calendar days of today, tomorrow, and Saturday. I read an online dictionary entry that described the term triduum spatium as being a Latin expression meaning a “space of three days.” Space, not span. Seems a bit like spacetime.

Triduum is also a general term for a three-day period of prayer. It is almost always applied to the Paschal period of three days. But like “novena,” it is a flexible concept. An engaged couple might observe a triduum by praying and preparing for marriage for a period, say, of a Wednesday lunch through the Rite of Marriage on a Saturday afternoon that might include a Mass of Thanksgiving for family and early guests, a wedding rehearsal, ritual and celebration preparations, special twosome prayers for the couple, and the like.

I’m not sure about the content of blogging here the next few days. I’m suspending the regular series on Evangelii Gaudium and Dies Domini until Sunday or Monday. Reflecting on those documents seems to have taken up quite a bit of energy these days. And when you get to my age, the energy is there. But I prefer to save it for other tasks and topics.

I feel I’ve blogged quite a few morsels over the years on the Triduum, so unless something inspires or strikes me, there may only be a daily posting. Or it could be a handful. Maybe a music suggestion or two.

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Sacraments During The Triduum

A quick primer on sacraments during the Paschal Triduum:

Baptism takes place at the Easter Vigil, or on Easter morning, possibly. Infants don’t seem to fit at the Vigil very well, and Sunday Mass can be quite busy, if not overcrowded. But I’ve seen infant baptism at both here and there through the years.

Confirmation takes place at the Easter Vigil. I’ve never seen a Confirmation on Easter morning, but some places separate out baptized candidates from the elect, and might confirm Easter morning. It’s a possibility, but likely not common.

The Eucharist. There is Mass on Thursday, a Communion service on Friday, and Masses at the Vigil and on Sunday. The Eucharist may be brought to the sick on Thursday, but this is encouraged/urged to be done after Mass on Thursday night. Communion may be brought to the sick at any time on Good Friday. It may only be given to the dying on Saturday. I’ve seen the occasional child’s First Communion on Easter Sunday, but never a large parish group.

Penance and Anointing of the Sick may be celebrated at any time during the Triduum.

Marriages cannot take place on Friday or Saturday. The Nuptial Mass is not permitted on Thursday, though a couple may marry in the context of a Word service. Sometimes there’s a sensitive spot of the need for a marriage to be convalidated. I saw that at an Easter Vigil 25 years ago.

Ordination is not listed in my references. Obviously a Mass is impossible and I’ve never heard of a priest being ordained without the celebration of Mass.

The funeral Mass is not celebrated during the Triduum. If a funeral is celebrated on Good Friday, it is outside of Mass, and there is no music to be played whatsoever: no singing, no accompaniment, and no church bells.

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Dies Domini 26: Image of Eternity

Counting can be a problem, at first glance. Old Testament literalists may fuss at Christians for shifting Sabbath observance to the first day. But in our weird way of counting time, and adding a dollop of the transcendant to the week, it is said we celebrate the eighth day. Not the first.

Pope John Paul II titles this section, “The eighth day: image of eternity.” What does he mean by that?

26. By contrast, the Sabbath’s position as the seventh day of the week suggests for the Lord’s Day a complementary symbolism, much loved by the Fathers. Sunday is not only the first day, it is also “the eighth day”, set within the sevenfold succession of days in a unique and transcendent position which evokes not only the beginning of time but also its end in “the age to come”.

A doctor of the Church gives witness:

Saint Basil explains that Sunday symbolizes that truly singular day which will follow the present time, the day without end which will know neither evening nor morning, the imperishable age which will never grow old; Sunday is the ceaseless foretelling of life without end which renews the hope of Christians and encourages them on their way.(Cf. Saint Basil, On the Holy Spirit, 27, 66: SC 17, 484-485. Cf. also Letter of Barnabas 15, 8-9: SC 172, 186-189; Saint Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 24; 138: PG 6, 528, 793; Origen,Commentary on the Psalms, Psalm 118(119), 1: PG 12, 1588)

Sunday is a suggestion of heaven. Perhaps some look forward to an eternal TGIF, or a golf-n-leisure filled Saturday. But Saint Basil suggests here that eternity may look more like a Sunday. Would we want it to look and feel more like a Sunday? And if not, does that say something about our current views and practices than it does about our great expectations of the afterlife?

Looking towards the last day, which fulfills completely the eschatological symbolism of the Sabbath, Saint Augustine concludes the Confessions describing the Eschaton as “the peace of quietness, the peace of the Sabbath, a peace with no evening”.(“Domine, praestitisti nobis pacem quietis, pacem sabbati, pacem sine vespera“: Confess., 13, 50: CCL 27, 272) In celebrating Sunday, both the “first” and the “eighth” day, the Christian is led towards the goal of eternal life.(Cf. Saint Augustine, Epist. 55, 17: CSEL 34, 188: “Ita ergo erit octavus, qui primus, ut prima vita sed aeterna reddatur“.)

Pax sine vespera: what a beautiful image. An eternal afternoon to enjoy God and be enjoyed by the Almighty. No curtain of darkness descending. No doubts or questions about what might come tomorrow.

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Matthew 26:69-75

mary-the-penitent.jpgIt is a timely reading for Holy Week, and we hear Peter’s denial every year at this time. Sometimes twice. Would we add a third time at a Communal Penance liturgy, or in form I with an individual penitent?

As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t grown accustomed to watching Peter in these Scriptures. In a way, it feels a bit like moral voyeurism. I feel guilty for the man. It’s like when my siblings got into trouble when I was a kid. Occasionally, I felt they got theirs … finally. But usually, I wanted to keep my head down. And I didn’t feel it was my business.

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard.
One of the maids came over to him and said,
“You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”
But he denied it in front of everyone, saying,
“I do not know what you are talking about!”
As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him
and said to those who were there,
“This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.”
Again he denied it with an oath,
“I do not know the man!”
A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter,
“Surely you too are one of them;
even your speech gives you away.”
At that he began to curse and to swear,
“I do not know the man.”
And immediately a cock crowed.
Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken:
“Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.”
He went out and began to weep bitterly.

Do Peter’s denials inspire penitence in my own life? I suppose it’s easy to say, as Peter himself did, “I will never deny you, Lord.” But we do reject Christ and his way. Quite often it is in subtle ways. A little bit here and a little there.

We deny sin. We deny it a little more vehemently, pressed. Peter even curses, lashing out, when someone insists. Of course, his sin is not in his association with Jesus or not. His anger is clearly self-directed. He knows he is in denial. He cannot hold it in.

Can we place ourselves in Peter’s place, denying the Lord? Maybe this reading works better for an individual penitent. If a parish does a Communal Penance liturgy during Holy Week (not that we don’t have enough on our plates) this Gospel seems appropriate. What do you think?

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