Dies Domini 27: The Day of Christ-Light

It seems appropriate to restart our series on Pope John Paul II’s document on Sunday … on Easter Sunday.

Christianity’s everlasting ability to inculturate, to adapt, and to utilize other traditions to further the Gospel of Christ. The day of a pagan sun god? Who cares? It suits, and besides: it has been totally overtaken by the Christian understanding in the West.

27. This Christocentric vision sheds light upon another symbolism which Christian reflection and pastoral practice ascribed to the Lord’s Day. Wise pastoral intuition suggested to the Church the christianization of the notion of Sunday as “the day of the sun”, which was the Roman name for the day and which is retained in some modern languages.(Thus in English “Sunday” and in German “Sonntag”.) This was in order to draw the faithful away from the seduction of cults which worshipped the sun, and to direct the celebration of the day to Christ, humanity’s true “sun”. Writing to the pagans, Saint Justin uses the language of the time to note that Christians gather together “on the day named after the sun”,(Apologia I, 67: PG 6, 430) but for believers the expression had already assumed a new meaning which was unmistakeably rooted in the Gospel.(Cf. Saint Maximus of Turin, Sermo 44, 1: CCL 23, 178; Sermo 53, 2: CCL 23, 219; Eusebius of Caesarea, Comm. in Ps. 91: PG 23, 1169-1173) Christ is the light of the world (cf. Jn 9:5; also 1:4-5, 9), and, in the weekly reckoning of time, the day commemorating his Resurrection is the enduring reflection of the epiphany of his glory. The theme of Sunday as the day illuminated by the triumph of the Risen Christ is also found in the Liturgy of the Hours* and is given special emphasis in the Pannichida, the vigil which in the Eastern liturgies prepares for Sunday. From generation to generation as she gathers on this day, the Church makes her own the wonderment of Zechariah as he looked upon Christ, seeing in him the dawn which gives “light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:78-79), and she echoes the joy of Simeon when he takes in his arms the divine Child who has come as the “light to enlighten the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32).

* See, for example, the Hymn of the Office of Readings: “Dies aetasque ceteris octava splendet sanctior in te quam, Iesu, consecras primitiae surgentium (Week I); and also: “Salve dies, dierum gloria, dies felix Christi victoria, dies digna iugi laetitia dies prima. Lux divina caecis irradiat, in qua Christus infernum spoliat, mortem vincit et reconciliat summis ima” (Week II). Similar expressions are found in hymns included in the Liturgy of the Hours in various modern languages.

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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One of Our Own

Iowa State graduate, former parishioner of ours, and soon-to-be-ordained priest of our archdiocese chants the Gospel at a Mass in a humble basilica by a small river in an ancient city. He begins about 24:50 in.

The pastor emailed him the other night:

Nice haircut.

I was more impressed with his singing.

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The Best Pastoral Easter Liturgy (That Might Get People To Return Next Sunday)

After a three-hour Easter Vigil, and two stuffed Sunday morning Masses, I was thinking about the ideal Easter Sunday Mass. I’ll mention a few things we did or didn’t do and please feel free to chime in with your parish’s practice, or what you would like to see.

The Lectionary is just about right. Brief and meaningful readings. I think giving a choice of Colossians and First Corinthians is wrong. It’s one extra little question from lectors that I’d rather not field during Holy Week … or at M-minus eight minutes on Sunday morning. Even the ones who “prepared both.” One reading should be chosen, and the other moved to another Easter Day.

The Sequence is lovely. Text and traditional music both. In an intentional community, sequences make sense on Easter morning. Most ideally, the text could be adapted to fit HYMN TO JOY and sung at Entrance. Otherwise, it’s a good idea but in the wrong cultural place. I can’t imagine doing it in the typical crammed suburban church.

The question-and-answer renewal of baptismal promises and Sprinkling Rite is really good. The forced connection between Sprinkling and some kind of Penitential Act in the Roman Missal is wack, to use a theological term. Water, baptism, creed, and professed faith makes sense, and I’m more inclined to think the Sprinkling Rite is misplaced in the roman Missal except for Easter Sunday. The Gloria is festive enough for Easter Sunday, as is the Sprinkling Rite after the homily. On this day a penitential rite is not needed, again, outside of intentional communities.

I have a strong preference for Eucharistic Prayer I on big feasts. Despite the horrid translation, I would still encourage it on Easter Sunday morning.

The Big Three need careful attention. Welcome, music, and preaching. Number one, at the doors of the church, plus the parking lot. Number two is a tradition for good music directors. I don’t worry much about that. If a parish’s music ministry is good the other 51 Sundays, it’s got to be adequate on Easter.

A priest doesn’t need a good homily for the previous three days of the Triduum. Pope Francis preached less than two minutes this year on Holy Thursday evening. That’s about right. One good idea, then let go. The ideal Easter Sunday homily would be about five minutes, and would involve about four Sunday’s worth of prep time–about the amount a preacher might spend on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil combined.

I hope everybody in a parish would share the same goal on Easter morning. For the previous three days, it’s all about celebrating the best and richest liturgy possible. That’s all “preaching to the choir,” as it were. Easter Sunday is about getting people back in seven days for a second try.

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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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Sleep

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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