Sunday, April 23, 2017

French Elections: A Bad Soufflé?

source: The Sun
Have you ever gone through the bother of making an ornate dinner for a party only to have to eat a disastrous resultant dish? A soufflé that did not rise? Overcooked steak? A béarnaise that scrambled? French voters are going through a similar experience right now.

The French Republic sent God to the guillotine in the 1790s, although the Church was allowed to exist independently until 1905, when the government nationalized Church property including hospitals and schools. Since then the official policy of France has been secularism in a post Christian age. Marine Le Pen herself extols France's take on secularism, which is effectively a resolute irreligion in the public sphere, but tolerance for fragments of the Christian age gone by.

Islam does not fit very well into this narrative. Some French have taken to calling their growing immigrants les rats. Middle Eastern Muslims live in a different narrative of the roles of the sexes, the place of religion in the public sphere, legal procedure, and the nature of God Himself than either Catholic or secular Frenchmen.

And what can they do about it? Nothing. Much like their older brother, the United States, the French government's official irreligion tolerates differences, which peaceably keeps us until we become too different. Even a culturally Christian country nation like Hungary or Poland could reasonably flaunt the E.U. and deny immigrants from Muslims countries. France has no such pretext unless they wish to argue the burqa is unattractive against the backdrop of churches museums. So to stop immigration and related terrorism Le Pen must resort to preaching positive secularism from years gone by while her opponents are more in tune with today's secularism. But as any Catholic knows, there is little more to conservatism than conserving yesterday's liberalism in the face of today's liberalism.

Regardless of how the election turns out there is a fundamental dishonesty in how the question of immigration must be framed. But France has spent over two centuries cooking this secular dinner with the butchered pieces of Christianity, now she must eat it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bright Friday Abstinence: Surely of the Devil


Some chappy has taken to advocating abstinence from meat and the associated practice of penance during Friday of Bright Week, that is, on Friday during the Paschal octave. He writes:
"Therefore, if one follows the discipline of 1962, then the corresponding practice on Easter Friday remains a day of abstinence.  If one follows the post-Vatican II discipline (which admittedly is the law, just as it would be lawful to feast during 38 of the 40 days of Lent), then grill the steak with one's novus ordo friends." 
I could not think of a greater indictment of the 1962 kalendar system, or really the kalendar as it existed during the century of so preceding Pius XII, Montini, and Bugnini's great brain child, Liturgical Reform. St. Pius V's kalendar had about 180 feasts of either semi-double or double rank, including days within octaves, leaving the rest as ferial or simple days. The few double feasts could supersede Sunday's liturgy. By the time of the 1911 reforms only a few days were left of ferial ranks either because of new feasts inserted at double rank or old feasts promoted so as to curtail the length of the Offices on those days. The 1960 simplification did not clean up kalendar clutter and the lack of rhythm (the liturgical context in which the 1917 Code of Canon Law was created). Rather it simply conceded to the clutter: first class is important, second class is for Sundays and those pesky Apostles, third class is everything else, fourth class means have yourself a votive Mass. The unique ranking of a week that precludes all other celebrating is quite lost.

A cursory glance at some sources indicates no consistent outlook on fasting or abstinence from meat during octaves in the medieval church, when octaves became very important. Sarum seems to have foregone these two during the Paschal and Nativity octaves. It is possible that some octaves were given more festive treatment than others, which would only be reasonable. There would be some abstinence on Friday during the Pentecost octave because the penitential Ember days are more ancient than the week-long extension of the feast.

My Greek rite church will have neither fasting nor abstinence until the Friday after All Saints Sunday (same day as Trinity Sunday in the West).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Paschal Octave Musings: Feast and Fast

"That bread may be brought forth from the earth
and wine that gladdens the heart of man."
source: AZcentral
Wine is the most perfectly Christian potable. It begins as matter of the earth which, through crushing and fermentation, becomes something more perfect than its original state or original purpose. Once opened this imbibable type for Baptism breaths the air and changes for the better after turning over once. It matures in its "spirit" and delights those who participate in its fellowship. Yet, like the Christian life, it can be left out unconsumed and misused, attenuated until it becomes vinegar.

During the Paschal octave we should rejoice and feast after the fast, the nearest beverage to which is water: satisfying, cleansing, and yet some an occasion for joy unto its own; yet, water followed by wine is a pleasing contrast between nourishment and enrichment. No other substances, however delectable, offer what these two offer the believer.

To development my point and to amuse your minds I have reproduced Gilbert Keith Chesteron's The Song of Right and Wrong below. A blessed Pascha to all!
Feast on wine or fast on water
And your honour shall stand sure,
God Almighty’s son and daughter
He the valiant, she the pure;
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.
Tea is like the East he grows in,
A great yellow Mandarin
With urbanity of manner
And unconsciousness of sin;
All the women, like a harem,
At his pig-tail troop along;
And, like all the East he grows in,
He is Poison when he’s strong.
Tea, although an Oriental,
Is a gentleman at least;
Cocoa is a cad and coward,
Cocoa is a vulgar beast,
Cocoa is a dull, disloyal,
Lying, crawling cad and clown,
And may very well be grateful
To the fool that takes him down. 
As for all the windy waters,
They were rained like tempests down
When good drink had been dishonoured
By the tipplers of the town;
When red wine had brought red ruin
And the death-dance of our times,
Heaven sent us Soda Water
As a torment for our crimes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An Anniversary Three Days Too Late

"I was visiting my father in his apartment at the Trump Tower, Rad Trad. There was this tiny Asian woman wearing sunglasses behind me, so I held the door for her. When she got closer I saw it was Yoko Ono and I let the door fly."

At first such teenage tomfoolery dismays the well inculcated probity towards good manners, especially for the woman who did music a favor by "breaking up the Beatles," but one must temper expectations for good manners in New York. When my friend first told me this story a decade ago I had to remind myself that New York witnessed some of the last men and women of good manners enter her harbor 95 years ago, now 105 years ago to the day, when the Carpathia brought ashore the 705 men, women, and children who survived the sinking of the Titanic.

The parents of this generation can still recall when a few survivors from modern history's most glamorous disaster could be counted on for television appearances. Now they are all quite dead and the unsinkable ship's maiden voyage survives only in a James Cameron film.

The Titanic was not the only ship to founder on her maiden voyage; the battleship Bismarck went down in 1941 with 2,200 on board, taking over 1,400 British sailors with "him" after sinking the Hood and damaging the Prince of Wales. Nor was the Titanic the greatest civilian maritime sinking; a Soviet submarine torpedoed the Wilhelm Gustloff and sent 9,400 people down to "Davy Jones' locker."

By sinking the RMS Titanic disappointed an era of boundless optimism, a time ebullient with the boundless capacity for ingenuity and invention to better the human condition. Society had matured from the growing pains of 19th century political revolution and could only be better off without the antiquarian altar and throne scheme. Edward style and society retained Victorian standards with brighter colors. Old money was fairly new, inherited wealth made two generations earlier by the Robber Barons (one had to be third generation wealth to join the clubs in Newport). Titanic synthesized all these things in her impermeable iron hull, where the old new money dined a few decks above those disjointed by industry, both propelled at 22 knots in a vessel a sixth of a mile long towards a new world unhindered by lingering social structures.

And then it all came crashing down, breaking in two on the way.

Titanic did not sink quickly like the Gustloff or as a ship of aggression like Bismarck. She died a slow, 160 minute death in which most of what was good in past society also died. Women and children were let off first, although more would have lived if Charles Lightoller did not interpret that order to mean "women and children only." Stokers who knew they would die made no attempt for a "run at it" and instead manned their positions in the boiler rooms to the end, keeping the power on and the pumps running to buy the ship additional life. The band played until the end, hoping to keep passengers calm and add some normality to the surreal sinking on the flat calm night. Contrary to film depictions, those in second and third class were not gated below, but they did not rush the upper decks and cause a panic either. The elderly Ida Straus gave her lifeboat seat to another so that she might pass with her husband, the owner of Macy's. Benjamin Guggenheim put on his white tie and top hat, ordered a cigar, and resigned to "go down as a gentleman."

How comical and carnivalesque to modernity for men in tails to listen to The Blue Danube Waltz during a watery death march, but is it only perverse because we never knew a sense of duty, place, and order and once permeated men and women more forcefully than the cold waters of the Atlantic that hit boiler room six. Their politics and religion were inherited from a revolts of past ages, but their courtesy and gentility inherited from homes more tangibly connected with Christian life than ours.

If the Titanic disappointed a changing world eager to embrace the promises of the machine, World War I yielded no reconsideration of the standing trajectory, and World War II, culminating in man's own Fiat lux on August 6, 1945. The old society died, but the new one failed to live up to billing. "Women and children first" and the band playing on was replaced with dull housewives, television, and rock 'n' roll. When promises disappoint we rarely return to our better paths; instead we wallow in bitterness and try to make the most of a new paradigm, like the child who goes off to college, lapses from faith, fails to get a decent job, and will not admit his live in girlfriend of four years is a waste of his time.

But today is a day to remember better men than we, men from 105 years gone by, all of them dead now. Offer a prayer for them in your charity.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Christ is Risen!


"If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
"And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
"Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen."


A blessed Pascha to all!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

He Descended into Hell: Holy Saturday


First, let me say that contrary to many contemporary opinions the old Holy Saturday liturgy was not at the wrong time. It was at an unusal time, morning, rather than after the canonical hour of None, around 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm, but it was never a night time liturgy. Also, it is not Easter's Mass done the day before, nor is it a midnight Mass, as at Christmas. It is a Mass and liturgy meant to help us anticipate the Resurrection. Let us see what the Church has given us.

The liturgy begins after None, the last "little hour" of the afternoon. The deacon and subdeacon still wear the folded chasubles, their penitential vestments. The clergy and laity gather outside the church, where, hopefully, someone has lit a fire. The priest, vested in violet, sings three luminously themed prayers: the first referring to the "brightness of Your Son," the second calling God the "Creator of all lights," and the third an actual blessing. This is very reminiscent of the Eastern blessing at the end of Divine Liturgy, which quotes St. James in calling God the "Father of Lights," of all that is perfect, luminous, and good.

A server ignites coals and the priest imposes and blesses incense. He sparges the Holy Fire with blessed water and then incenses it. He also blesses five grains of incense which he be inserted into the Pascal Candle, representing the light of Christ throughout Easter season, inside the church.


The deacon then changes his penitential folded chasuble for a white dalmatic and maniple. He takes a large, triple-branched candle and, lighting a new wick from the Holy Fire, enters the church exclaiming Lumen Christi—"The Light of Christ." This happens twice more until we are in the church proper.


A deacon with the triple-candle preparing to enter the church.




The deacon then petitions the priest for a blessing, approaches the Paschal Candle, which is off to the Gospel side of the altar, and sings the Exultet, a long blessing. The Exultet is rich with imagery of light in the night and the deliverance from Egypt. This day is the deliverance from our spiritual Egypt: Sin and Death. Part way through, the deacon inserts the five grains of incense, calling them an "evening sacrifice," and lights the Paschal Candle. The video to the left is a singing of the Exultet at St. Peter's Basilica two years ago. I find the continued use of the prayer in the newer rites odd, given that none of the actions mentioned in the text are performed, nor is the intention any longer to bless! The prayer concludes with a petition for the Pope and the, no longer extant, Holy Roman Emperor. The lights of the church go on at the words Vere beata nox—"Oh, truly blessed night!" In the middle ages, when this ceremony took place in day light, the windows of the church would be covered in dark cloth, which would be removed at those words, washing the church in God's light after a spiritual slumber.


The deacon returns to his penitential folded-chasuble and, along with the priest and subdeacon, read twelve prophecies, which are chanted by lectors in the middle of the choir. The prophecies together form the story of salvation, both in anticipation and in prediction of Christ:
  1. Genesis 1:1-31, 2:1-2: The creation of the world by God, the ruler of all things. He sees that it is good.
  2. Genesis chapters 5-8: The Great Flood and God's commissioning of Noah to build an ark. The ark is a foreshadowing of the Church, which God gives us to protect us from the Flood of Sin.
  3. Genesis 22:1-9: Abram is about to offer his son, Isaac, but an angel intervenes. For his love of God, the Lord makes a covenant with him and renames the man Abraham.
  4. Exodus 14:24-15:1: God lets the Israelites pass through Egypt unto freedom through the Red Sea, which drowns the pursuing forces of the Pharoah. Baptism will be our watery means of passing unto freedom.
  5. Isaiah 54:17, 55:1-11: God has heard the cry of His people and will honor the promises to David.
  6. Baruch 3:9-38: God has absolute knowledge and dominion over His creation.
  7. Ezekiel 37:1-14: The bones of the fallen will rise again under the spirit of the Lord.
  8. Isaiah 4:1-6: The Lord will wash away the "filth of Jerusalem" and build a covenant.
  9. Exodus 12:1-11: God prescribes the Passover sacrifice of a lamb to the Jews, which will deliver them from God's plague over the first-borns of Egypt. They will be free. Christ is the perfect, spotless Lamb, the perfect sacrifice. He will intercede for us before the Father.
  10. Jonah 3:1-10: The prophet Jonah convinces the city of Nineveh to repent of their sins and do penance, averting their impending destruction. Penance is necessary to pay the debt of sin, not just to be forgiven.
  11. Deuteronomy 31:22-30: Moses provides for his death and the continuation of the Israelites into the promised land. This succession of leaders will continue until Christ.
  12. Daniel 3:1-24: King Nabuchodonosor attempts to kill three Jewish children for not worshiping his idols. They are thrown into a fire, but angels guard them.
In between these readings are sung various prayers and sung psalms. A procession forms and heads to the baptismal font. The priest blesses the empty font and the water in it by plunging the Paschal Candle three times. He sprinkles water towards the four points of the compass and then the faithful with Holy Water from the font, and then infuses Holy Oils into it. He proceeds to baptize and confirm any converts present in the normal manner. The procession then returns to the altar as the choir sings the Litany of Saints, doubling the invocations and answers (ex: choir: Pater de caelis, Deus, Miserere nobis people: Pater de caelis, Deus, Miserere nobis). If there is no font, everything until the Litany is excluded.


Everyone kneels for the duration of the Litany, which takes the place of the Introit of the Mass. The intention of the Litany is mainly to pray for converts, but also for the Church as a whole, as She enters the Paschal mystery. The priest, deacon, and subdeacon remove their outer vestments and prostrate themselves.


Towards the end of the Litany the priest and his ministers rise and head to the sacristy to vest in white vestments for Mass. Servers prepare the altar with the missal and put on the best, most festive frontal.



The altar candles are lit from the Paschal Candle. The ministers of Mass return and sing a normal solemn high Mass. The Gloria is the lovely Lux et Origo setting. The Epistle is from St. Paul's letter to the Colassians, in which the Apostles tells us that if we are dead with Christ, Christ will rise and us with Him.

The priest sings Alleluia for the first time in two months. Absorbed in joy, he sings it three times, each higher and each repeated by the choir. The Gospel, taken from St. Matthew's account of the myrrh-bearing women finding the empty tomb, is accented by the fact that candles are not carried in the procession, emphasizing that the Resurrection has not yet happened for us, but that we are anticipating it. All of this subtlety is indicative of the restraint of the old Roman rite.


The celebrant reads the Gospel before the deacon sings it.


As this is a vigil, the Creed is not sung. There is no verse or chant prescribed for the offertory, so the organ  is played or Latin hymns are sung.


The preface is of Easter. During the Canon of the Mass, the Communicantes prayer is unique: "Communicating, and keeping this most holy night of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh; and also reverencing the memory...." The Pax is not given and the Agnus Dei is omitted. This may be for two reasons: (1) the Lamb is not yet risen and with us or (2) this liturgy is so old that it pre-dates the eighth century introduction of the Agnus Dei


After communion and the cleansing of the vessels, a short Holy Saturday Vespers is sung rather than a communion chant. It is psalm 116, surrounded by a triple Alleluia. The priest begins the antiphon on the Mangificat: Vespere autem sabati....  During the Magnificat everyone is incensed as usual. The priest sings the post-communion prayer, which I have given below:
Pour forth, O Lord, we beseech thee, the Spirit of thy love into our hearts, and by thy mercy make all them to be of one mind to whom Thou hast given to eat of thy mystic Passover. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. Amen.

The dismissal is Ite, missa est, alleluia! Alleluia. The Deo gratias response is also given a double alleluia. The priest says the Placeat, gives the blessing, and recites the Last Gospel as normal. It is traditional to end the liturgy with the Regina Coeli.
Queen of Heaven, rejoice! Alleluia!
For He Who you did merit to bear, Alleluia!
Has risen as He said, Alleluia!
Pray for us to God, Alleluia! 
These rites would end about four hours after they started. The main point of celebrating this liturgy early was so that Paschal Mattins and Lauds could start at a reasonable time. The twentieth century de-emphasis of the Divine Office saddens me. Paschal Mattins and Lauds are the most important liturgical event of the entire week, more so than any Mass or office. In these offices we formally begin the celebration of the Resurrection. In Eastern Churches the people wander the church looking for Christ, but not finding Him! He is risen! They then sing Mattins and Lauds at midnight, followed by Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is of Easter Sunday, it is not a vigil nor is it a midnight Mass, as we have on Christmas. The reformers lost this critical difference and canned the most important office of the year in the process.

In the West there would be a Resurrection ceremony, which would find the sepulcher created on Good Friday empty, the crucifix would be adored again as on Good Friday, and Mattins and Lauds would be sung. Mattins has one nocturn, with lesson from a sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great, in which the saintly pontiff says we, the Church, must come to Christ's tomb bearing gifts like the women if we are to be surprised and rejoice. The Te Deum is sung de tempore for the first time in two months. At Lauds, the first antiphon declares that an angel descended from heaven to roll back the stone. The antiphons for this Lauds are among the most beautiful of the year. There is no hymn at Mattins or Lauds. The dismissal has a double Alleluia, as at Mass. The office ends with the Regina Coeli again. Easter has begun at this point.



Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday: Mass of the Pre-Sanctified

Today's Pre-Sanctified Mass is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, liturgical rites in the Roman Church. A "Mass" without a consecration, it follows the pattern of liturgy that pre-dates even St. Gregory the Great, to whom this particular day's ceremony is attributed: readings, collects for the needs of the Church, the Eucharist, and Vespers. This day is not Church theater or ritual for its own sake. This is worship of the God of all Who died for all.



The priest and his two deacons, who wear folded chasubles rather than dalmatics, prostrate themselves before the altar for enough time to pray psalm 50, the Miserere, in silence, while servers spread a cloth on the altar. Like at Mass, the crucifix and candles remain on the altar, though unlit.


A lector sings a prophecy of the prophet Osee (or Hosea, in the Hebrew spelling), which foretells the suffering, burial, and third day rising of Christ. Then the subdeacon sings chapter 12 of the book of Exodus, which recounts the manner in which the finest lambs were killed during the first Passover in Egypt. This sacrifice liberated the Israelites from the bondage of the Pharoah. The sacrifice of the perfect victim, Christ, liberated the world from the bondage of death. God does not want a sacrifice because He wants things to be destroyed. A true sacrifice is the gift of what is precious to one's self unto another. This was the intent of the Israelites in Egypt, and more so on the Cross. A tract, psalm 139, is sung: Eripe me Domine ab homine malo—"Deliver me, Oh Lord, from the wicked man!"


Three deacons then sing the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. John, beginning with His arrest in the Garden and ending just after His death on the Cross. The deacon of the "Mass" removes his folded chasuble, as at Mass, and sings the burial of Christ as the Gospel, suggesting that this, not the general narrative, is the most important text of the day.


Priest and subdeacon listen to the Passion.


Then deacon, now wearing the "broad stole," returns to the other ministers. Returning to the epistle corner, the priest sings the Solemn Collects, some of the oldest continuously used prayers in the Church. Moreover, these prayers give us some indication as to what the structure of the Mass was like in the mid-first millennium and for what those Christians prayed. There is a preface to announce the prayer intention, followed by Oremus—"let us pray," Flectamus genua—"Let us kneel," and Levate—"Let us stand" before the actual prayer itself.


The prayer intentions were:
  • For the welfare of the Church universal
  • For the Pope
  • For the clergy, people in religious life, virgins, and widows
  • For the enlightenment of the catechumens and the remission of their sins
  • For the cleansing of the world of errors
  • For the rescue of heretics and schismatics
  • For the conversion of the Jews
  • For the end of idolatry and conversion of the pagans
No genuflection was made during the prayer for the Jews. A genuflection was added by Pope John XXIII in the revised rite of Holy Week in 1959, although John XXIII seems to have continued to celebrate the old Good Friday in the Sistine Chapel!

The prayer that caused so much consternation is as follows:
Orémus et pro pérfidis Iudaeis: ut Deus et Dóminus noster áuferat velámen de córdibus eórum; ut et ipsi agnóscant Iesum Christum, Dóminum nostrum.
Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui étiam iudáicam perfídiam a tua misericórdia non repéllis: exáudi preces nostras, quas pro illíus pópuli obcæcatióne deférimus; ut, ágnita veritátis tuæ luce, quæ Christus est, a suis ténebris eruántur. Per eundem Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Unlike the other solemn intercessions on Good Friday the clergy and people make no genuflection between the announcement of the intention and the actual collect. 
Initially I did not think this prayer bigoted, but I did consider it unnecessarily inflammatory given the use of the term "pro perfidis Iudaeis." That all changed when then-Pope Benedict issued a shiny new prayer for the Jews to be used during 1962 rite Good Friday services. A friend of mine reacted positively to the new prayer, saying it brought us away from "tribal hate" and towards a more brotherly outlook on our antecedent religion. At this point I began to re-consider my position. Benedict's prayer, although different from the traditional one, at least asks for conversion, in stark contrast to the vague platitude in the Pauline Missal's Holy Week.

The first clue in my re-evaluation was the true contextual meaning of that term "perfidis," which does not mean "perfidious" in the modern understanding (wretched, wicked, evil), but rather "faithless." This ought not be anti-Semitic. It is merely a deduction. Anyone who does not believe in Christ lacks proper faith.

The next, and most profound, point makes the loss of this prayer a liturgical, historical, and theological travesty. The intention asks that God might "remove the veil from their hearts," which the collect proper continues to petition that the Jews might "acknowledge the light of Your Truth, Which is Christ" and that they may be "rescued from their darkness." To understand the deeper meaning and truth of this prayer we must recall what happened at the end of the Crucifixion.

"Jesus, when He had taken the vinegar, said: 'It is consummated.' And bowing His head he gave up the ghost" (John 19:30). In tract 119 St. Augustine writes "What, but all that prophecy had foretold so long before? And then, because nothing now remained that still required to be done before He died, as if He, who had power to lay down His life and to take it up again, had at length completed all for whose completion He was waiting." Our Lord's death on the Cross completes everything the Father promised in the Old Covenant and which He appointed His Son to do for our sake. The prophecies and promises are, at this point, fulfilled. Fulfillment, in the Church, does not mean something finished. Rather it means something brought to fruition.

Consequently, the covenant God made with the Jews did not vanish entirely, but became something else, something greater and, as the angel told the shepherds when He was born, a great thing "for all peoples" (Luke 2). The God Who dwelt only among the Jews and Who only revealed His intentions to them and Who only acted among them now dwells and reveals Himself and acts among all people and for the good of all. "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22), but not limited to the Jews. The Old Covenant, now something greater, ends as it was. The Temple veil "was rent in two from the top even to the bottom" (Matthew 27:51). The veil, which concealed the awesome qualitative presence of God within the Temple, is entirely torn when a new, and greater, covenant is sealed in the Blood of Christ. Here is a New Covenant for all people. God, no longer hidden behind the Temple veil, is now accessible to all people. St. Paul reflects on this in his epistle to the Hebrews (9:1-8):

"The former indeed had also justifications of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made the first, wherein were the candlesticks, and the table, and the setting forth of loaves, which is called the holy. And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the holy of holies: Having a golden censer, and the ark of the testament covered about on every part with gold, in which was a golden pot that had manna, and the rod of Aaron, that had blossomed, and the tables of the testament. And over it were the cherubims of glory overshadowing the propitiatory: of which it is not needful to speak now particularly. Now these things being thus ordered, into the first tabernacle the priests indeed always entered, accomplishing the offices of sacrifices. But into the second, the high priest alone, once a year: not without blood, which he offereth for his own, and the people' s ignorance: The Holy Ghost signifying this, that the way into the holies was not yet made manifest, whilst the former tabernacle was yet standing."

We have come halfway to understanding the significance of the older Good Friday prayer, but only halfway.

What does a veil, curtain, or wall do? It keeps something concealed, but also protects that something from exterior elements, usually light. Our Lord said "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). The Jewish leaders persuaded the crowds gathered in the Roman praetorium to reject Jesus and ask for the release of a bad man. After dissolving themselves of the Savior promised to them Jerusalem fell and the Temple, the place of God's covenant with them, burned to the ground. What survived was not Judaism in the pre-Christian sense, but a new sort of Judaism meant for scattered local communities and based on the Jewish people's experiences as the minority in an increasingly Christian world (the so-called "modernist" George Tyrrell wrote an interesting letter on this subject, concluding that Catholicism is the real continuation of Judaism). Rabbis replaced priests; synagogues replaced the Temple; and the Talmud became a new holy book to the Jewish people rather than the New Testament books. This reformed, leaner Judaism would help Jewish culture survive its coming difficulties and would also insulate Jewish people from the light of Christ—as it was founded partially in reaction to what Christ did. When the Father tore down the Temple veil to reveal Christ's light to all a new veil ascended to shield that light.

No one should conclude that this is anti-Semitic. Fr. Hunwicke points out that Arabs are Semites, too. This prayer is about Judaism, not Jews as an ethnic group. On some level the concepts "faithless" persons and of hiding the light of Christ with a "veil" applies to all non-believers. And yet the Jewish people, given their unique place in the chain of event that led to Christ's Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection, surely warrant a unique place in the liturgical prayers, particularly given their once exclusive covenant with God.

I have never felt comfortable with the description of practitioners of post-Temple Judaism as our "older brothers" in the faith, given that the Judaism which preceded Catholicism no longer exists. I suspect the shift in attitude towards Judaism and the eventual revision of this prayer results from [humanly understandable] European guilt that followed the Holocaust. The pope who initially altered this prayer (John XXIII) aided Pius XII's efforts to obstruct deportations of Jews in Turkey. The pope who introduced the 1970 prayer (Paul VI) served the same Pius XII as his secretary during the War. And the pope who issued a new prayer for the 1962 Missal (Benedict XVI) was a young German man during the War and who, certainly, has a greater cultural association with the Holocaust than the other two.

And yet I maintain that the loss of this prayer is something worthy of re-consideration. It contains a wealth of lessons about covenants, the meaning of the Crucifixion, the openness of Christ's grace, and the danger of veiling Christ's light. During the first fourteen or so centuries, or more, of this prayer's use no one decided to attempt mass extermination of the Jewish people. Hitler's anti-Semitism had nothing to do with Catholicism. His was a neo-pagan, racially-based hatred steeped in the eugenicist delusions pervading secular culture in the early 20th century—not that modern "intellectuals" have disowned the spirit of this delusion. Axing this prayer added very little and pushed aside very much.


The ministers, probably for mobility in ancient times, remove their outer-most vestments and the deacon retrieves the veiled crucifix from the altar and gives it to the priest. The priest, beginning at the bottom of the epistle side, steps higher and towards the center of the altar, unveiling part of the crucifix and singing Ecce lignum crucis—"Behold the wood of the cross"—as he rises. The people respond In quo salus mundi pependit. Venite, adoremus!—"On which hung the salvation of the world. Come, let us adore!"

This happens three times, after which the entire crucifix is visible. It is then laid upon a pillow or cloth and adored by the people. First the priest, then the ministers of the service, then any other present clergy, and the servers. They all adore barefoot. Then the congregation adores, making three prostrations before their kiss of the cross.


Although the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified supposedly died in 1956 under Pope Pius XII, John XXIII continued to use it in the Sistine Chapel, as seen in this 1959 celebration.


Ecce lingum crucis, in quo salus mundi pependit.


Venite, adoremus!


Whilst the laity make their adoration, the altar is prepared for the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified and the choir sings the Reproaches, which includes the Trisagion.

The crucifix is then placed upon the altar, where it would normally go, and is reverenced with a genuflection for the rest of the day.


The clergy, and laity if they wish, process to the altar of repose, where the Blessed Sacrament has been over night.


The Sacrament is then incensed by the priest, who assumes the hummeral veil and takes the Sacrament back to the main altar.


This is a full Blessed Sacrament procession, with incense and the processional cross carried before the priest and the Sacrament. The great hymn Vexilla Regis is sung.


The procession returns to the main altar.


The deacon arranges the chalice and its veil, containing the Sacrament, as it would be at Mass.


The Blessed Sacrament is then incensed by the celebrant.


The subdeacon prepares the chalice with wine and water, as he would at Mass and the "Gifts" are incensed in the same way they would have been at a regular Mass. The priest turns to the people and says the Orate, fratres... ("Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours....) as at Mass.

One English friend of mine always insisted that the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified is indeed an actual Mass. He had something of a point. Its prayers are those of a Mass. It is not a simple communion service. Although there is no consecration of the Host, the actions imitate those of a Mass in order to emphasize the relation between the Mass and Calvary, that they are one and the same sacrifice of Christ.


The celebrant then sings the Pater Noster, "Our Father," and elevates the Host for public adoration as he would after consecration at Mass. He then fractures the Host as at Mass and mingles a fragment of the Blessed Sacrament with wine. Liturgical reformers particularly disliked the pious medieval belief that the fragment consecrated the wine into the blood of Christ (which Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox still believe).

The union between the offering of the Body and Blood here and the same sacrifice that took place on the Cross cannot be emphasized enough. There are two reasons why no active consecration takes place here: the first is that the Eucharistic (which comes from the Greek word for "thanksgiving") has a celebratory character to it, which makes it ill suited for today; the other is that today the priest is less an agent of Christ, in persona Christi, than the rest of the year. Today Christ does everything. He offers Himself on His own and by His own accord. So the priest elevates the Sacrament as at Mass both for adoration of the people and to parallel the same work of Christ that takes place at a normal Mass.


The priest then says the communion prayers of Mass and consumes the Host as normal. He consumes the chalice's contents saying nothing, leaving some mystery as to whether consecration occurred or not!

Today the congregation and attending clergy do not and cannot receive Holy Communion. As we have the Real Presence one could say that today we have the Real Loss. The gravity of this Loss is lost on us today. For one day out of the year there is no Blessed Sacrament, there are no holy images, there are no candles, nor is there any vibrant color. All there is after the Pre-Sanctified Mass is the Crucifix. One is reminded of Cordellia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited lamenting the de-consecration of the family chapel during which a visiting priest consumed the Sacrament and took the altar stone and relic with him. Cordellia asked Charles must "every day be Good Friday?" As a matter of principle when I attend the Pauline Good Friday I do not receive Communion. Doing so misses the point today.

Before monstrances and private receptions on Communion, the Roman Eucharistic praxis saw the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the altar as perpetuating His very real place on earth. In his second sermon on the Ascension of the Lord, St. Leo the Great preached that "that which till then was visible of our Redeemer was changed into a sacramental presence, and that faith might be more excellent and stronger, sight gave way to doctrine, the authority of which was to be accepted by believing hearts enlightened with rays from above." Laurence Hemming connects the Roman Eucharistic theology with the liturgy of the Ascension, when the Paschal candle is extinguished after the Gospel and the remaining candles in the church are lit from the fire, diffusing Christ's light from one source to many places; similarly, the Pope used to send fragments of the Eucharist from his Masses to other parishes of Rome to emphasize the Communion of the bishop with the city and clergy; perhaps most shocking to modern readers is that it was common practice for believers to bring Holy Communion home in a muslin bag and consume it prior to family supper, bringing Christ's presence from the altar to the Christian's home.

The middle ages witnessed a shift in liturgical action, not necessarily one in outlook. Medieval piety valued stillness, shocking the believer, staring at the presence of God before him. Out of this was born the elevation of the consecrated elements during the Canon of the Mass. Perhaps a more dynamic development was that of processions, most apparent in the Norman liturgical family during Holy Week. In Sarum the Eucharist was carrying by the priest, presumably in a pyx, during the Palm Sunday procession; in spiritual eyes Christ's refusal of entry into Jerusalem and triumphant crossing through the door truly was relived; similarly, a host was buried in the sepulcher after the corpus was deposed from the crucifix on Good Friday only to be removed and placed back in the tabernacle for the Resurrection. 

The Mass of the Presanctified fits into this story. One Good Friday no one save the celebrant has anything to do with Communion. In the Holy Temple Christ's Real Presence vanishes. In practice some hosts would be reserved in case of emergency last rites, usually in the rectory or in a side chapel in the church; in these cases, however, no reverence is traditionally rendered to the Sacrament until Pascha.

The priest purifies his fingers and the subdeacon cleans the chalice as normal at Mass.

Vespers, the same as yesterday except for the addition of mortem autem crucis ("even unto death on a cross") to versicle and a proper Magnificat antiphon, are chanted in a monotone immediately.

The clergy then leave in silence unless they intend to follow the custom of deposing the corpus from a Crucifix and "burying" it in a sepulcher, a medieval practice which is still alive and well in parts of England, Poland, and the Byzantine rite. One such ceremony, at the monastery of the Franciscans who care for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, is shown below.


This marvelous rite was replaced with a general communion services. The revised rites, from 1956 until 1969, involved a maddening three changes of vestments. Prayers and readings, in both the 1956 rite and the Pauline rite, take place at the chair, the altar, at a podium, and any where else you can find. Odd.

A blessed Good Friday to you all.

For those interested here is a video of the first third or so of the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified celebrated as a pontifical Mass from the Faldstool.



A blessed Good Friday to all.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Passiontide: The Promise to Abraham

In these finals days of Great Lent the Christian turns his attention away from the themed Sundays of the preceding weeks and begins to consider the sufferings of Christ in earnest, the great acts benefiting us to our regeneration, the Cross, the tomb, and the Resurrection on the third day. The real enemy was not Rome or Babylon, but sin, which caused mankind grief and death and which, by taking on the form of a man and subjecting Himself to sinners, Our Lord expunged the spiritual stain of sin and the eternal consequences of death.

We Christians will consider the nature of sin and how the Resurrection opened the way to its forgiveness in the rebirth of Baptism. We will think about our personal sins, how lamentable they are to God, and how they contributed to Jesus' sufferings; I pray we also consider how fasting and uniting ourselves to His sufferings will purify us of the things that breach our connection to Him. Many would agree that we should not limit our prayers and attempts to attend services during Holy Week by the casual barriers of daily life, but perhaps a less obvious barrier is to meditation. We think of Holy Week as the culmination of a few specific things when it is in fact the culmination of a great many things, among them a series of covenants that began in earnest with our father in faith, Abraham.

God promised to make the ninety-nine year old Abram the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4-5) through which He would make Himself known among men. Abram believed "in uncircumcision", but he submitted to God's command of circumcision and "through the justice of faith" became the heir of the world (Romans 4:10-14). For his submission God made him a new man, no longer Abram, but Abraham. He knew God by faith, but by his submission to the command he was made anew, anticipating how by a greater encounter with Christ we may come to believe, but only by Baptism are we reborn free of sin. In his more Anglican days John Henry Newman observed "Even Abraham was justified by faith, though he was perfected by works" (Intercession).

Abram did not receive Baptism, he received a promise that he would multiply and his children would constitute many peoples. While promises do not change circumstance, they give hope that our lot will be changed. Nations did in fact come from Abraham while "sin reigned unto death." What came after the Resurrection was not a promise, but the fulfillment of a promise and the object of hope. While Abraham's descendants opaquely saw sin in infidelity to the Law, in the fullness of faith we sin as death itself. And yet Christ rose from the dead and "trampled upon death by His death and has given life" to those who were dead. Those dead in sin, if not in tombs, are brought into the Church on Holy Saturday when Christ freed Abraham and his faithful children, sinners that they were, from Hades. "Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death? For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).

Death is the opposite of giving life. By God Abraham gave life to a multitude; Christ gave life eternal to all who would follow, Abraham's true children.

"The Law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday: In the Presence of the Lord (REPOST)


Today is one of the great days in the Church's year, Palm Sunday. Today we re-live and commemorate both the Lord's entrance into Jerusalem and His Passion and death. It is also a day which highlights our personal ignorance of God, in spite of what seems obvious in retrospect. Two millennia later, we safely judge this concatenation of events. At the time their meaning was not so obvious, and would not be until Pentecost. Are we ignorant of the truth of God's actions? Do we recognize Him in our midst? Do we expect of Him merely human things, solutions to our personal concerns?

Jouvenet's Raising of Lazarus
Just a few days before, on his way to Jerusalem, our Lord Jesus stopped in Bethany at the news that Lazarus, one of his beloved followers, had fallen ill. By the time Christ arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. Yet Christ took pity upon him and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus here reveals Himself to be more than a prophet, more than a healer, more than a local mystic or anti-establishment rabbi. He has dominion over death.

Christ asks Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live: And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. Believest thou this?" (John 11:25-26). She responds that she does believe. Christ turns to the tomb where Lazarus has resided in decay and rot for days and yells "Lazarus, come out!" And the man who was not near death, but dead, was now alive.

Not quite understanding the gravity of what transpired, but still chocked and interested (John ch. 12), the people came to see and greet our Lord when he finally arrived in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was not a city with a temple, but a temple with a city. It was the center of the Jewish religion and the only place on earth where a meaningful sacrifice could be offered to God. Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire often sent money to have an offering made at the Temple for their intentions if they were unable to be in Jerusalem. And this is where Christ went, not to make a legal sacrifice on stone foundations, as St. Ambrose reminds us today in Mattins, but to make a sacrifice that would established foundations of faith.

As Benedict XVI pointed out in his second Jesus of Nazareth book, Jesus sent two Apostles ahead to acquire a donkey and a horse, meaning He already had a following in Jerusalem. Other places in the Gospel indicate that outside the Apostles, Christ had a significant entourage, several hundred people or more. These were those who greeted  Him with palms and enthusiasm. The rest of the crowd sought a thrill or novelty. Actually, did not the Apostles and other disciples? They knew more than the people of Jerusalem, but they comprehended practically nothing. In my moments of cynicism I cannot help but interpret certain words of Jesus' like "How much longer must I endure this generation?" as "These people are ridiculous." The Church has understood this frustration over the years. St. Leo the Great remarks in a sermon "Let man's weakness, then, fall down before the glory of God, and acknowledge herself ever too feeble to unfold all the works of His mercy."
Reading from Exodus at the dry Mass at the Institute of Christ the King
seminary in Gricigliano, 2003
What was the purpose of the palms? I've always wondered. At some level there is a practical and honorific element to the placing of palms in the path of the Lord, almost saying that the ground on which Christ's donkey walks is unworthy to support the Lord. Yet we ought to recall some typology from Exodus. During the Mass today there is actually a "dry Mass" (Missa sicca) to bless the palms, a ceremony with an introit, reading, gradual, Gospel, preface, Sanctus, and blessing prayers, much like a Mass. the reading from the "dry Mass" is from the book of Exodus, at the moment when Moses and the Israelites arrive at an oasis of twelve fountains and seventy palm trees. The Israelites had left their bondage but would not have made their way out of Egypt without rest, a place of shade, and some water. In short, the palms provided that. As those palms and water provided the Israelites the means of leaving the bondage of slavery, so Christ provides His people with the means of leaving the bondage of death. The third of the five collect prayers to bless the palms contains not a few didactic lines:
The branches of palms, therefore, represent His triumphs over the prince of death; and the branches of olive proclaim, in a manner, the coming of a spiritual unction. For that pious multitude understood that these things were then prefigured; that our Redeemer, compassionating human miseries, was about to fight with the prince of death for the life of the whole world, and, by dying, to triumph. For which cause they dutifully ministered such things as signified in Him the triumphs of victory and the richness of mercy.
The procession from the aforementioned celebration of Palm
Sunday by the Institute of Christ the King in 2003
Recall also that in Rome palms are not always used. Often the Roman Church substitutes olive branches given their greater availability in Italy. The olive branch is no less significant. After the Great Flood a dove brought an olive branch to Moses. To he who survived the Flood the olive branch was not a peace-offering, but rather a sign that death had ended and life had begun anew.

Olives branches are especially prevalent throughout the Mediterranean world. It is not unthinkable that the Cross was made from from the wood of an olive tree, making olive branches and palms both types and anti-types of Christ's redemptive work.

Palm Sunday initiates Holy Week, both the most important proper week of the year and a curio in the Roman rite, a week that preserves the most ancient liturgical customs of the Eternal City which fell out of regular use. In the first millennium there would be two Masses in Rome. The first would be celebrated in the presence of the Pope at St. Mary Major, where palms would be blessed and distributed. The focus of this Mass would be Palm Sunday. There would then be a procession to the Archbasilica of Our Savior, the cathedral of Rome, where the Pope would celebrate a Mass of the Passion of the Lord. The current arrangement of a "dry Mass" followed by a procession and a Mass of the Passion is a remnant of that, unless one uses the reduced new rite. The "dry Mass"—with its Introit, collect, Epistle, gradual, Gospel, preface, Sanctus, "consecration," distribution of holy things, and dismissal—is the relic of the former of the two ancient Palm Sunday Masses.

A procession of clergy and laity, holding their palms and preceded by a veiled cross—as the mystery of the Cross is hidden!—leaves the church and takes a path eventually leading back to the front door, which is sealed, a representation of the resistance of the people of Jerusalem to our Lord. A small choir still within the Church sing the hymn Gloria, Laus, et Honor Tibi Sit in alternation with those outside. The entrance of Christ, the unease of the Jewish people, the laud of Christ's followers, and the Lord's lament for Jerusalem are not simply re-enacted, but re-visited! At the end the subdeacon knocks on the door of the Church with the cross, opening it. From here the Mass of the Passion begins.
Glory, praise and honor to Thee, O King Christ, the Redeemer: to whom children poured their glad and sweet hosanna's song.
Glory, praise and honor to Thee, O King Christ, the Redeemer: to whom children poured their glad and sweet hosanna's song.
Hail, King of Israel! David's Son of royal fame! Who comest in the Name of the Lord, O Blessed King.
Glory, praise and honor to Thee, O King Christ, the Redeemer: to whom children poured their glad and sweet hosanna's song.
The Angel host laud Thee on high, On earth mankind, with all created things.
Glory, praise and honor to Thee, O King Christ, the Redeemer: to whom children poured their glad and sweet hosanna's song.
With palms the Jews went forth to meet Thee. We greet Thee now with prayers and hymns.
Glory, praise and honor to Thee, O King Christ, the Redeemer: to whom children poured their glad and sweet hosanna's song.
On Thy way to die, they crowned Thee with praise; We raise our song to Thee, now King on high.
Glory, praise and honor to Thee, O King Christ, the Redeemer: to whom children poured their glad and sweet hosanna's song.
Their poor homage pleased Thee, O gracious King! O clement King, accept too ours, the best that we can bring.
Glory, praise and honor to Thee, O King Christ, the Redeemer: to whom children poured their glad and sweet hosanna's song.
A short clip of the door knocking ceremony with an Old Roman
style Gloria, Laus, et Honor tibi sit.



The Mass is one of the most beautiful of the year, and especially notable for its music, including the singing of psalm 21 as the tract, the full Passion according to St. Matthew, and the Gospel in the "haunting" tone.

The prayers at the foot of the altar are the reduced form used in Passiontide, the last two weeks of Lent. This form omits the Iudica me psalm and the Gloria Patri.... doxology, which is also omitted in other parts of the Mass as at a requiem Mass. As Fr. Andrew Southwell, OSB once said, Mother Church "is in mourning."

The Epistle is from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, in which the Apostle writes that at the "name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth." Christ's sacrifice on the Cross for man gives Him primacy over all things in God's creation.

The gradual today, as in very ancient days, is a full psalm and not just an excerpt. It is psalm 21, which Christ quoted from the Cross: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" The Father did not desert the Son, regardless of what von Balthasar thought, but today the psalm functions as an allusion, as the psalm describes the pains of a just man suffering for the sins of the world. Christ fulfills the prophecy of David. The One with power over death dies.

Deacons reading the Passion according to St. Matthew
Then three deacons enter the sanctuary and begin to sing St. Matthew's account of the Passion of our Lord, beginning with the events leading up to the Last Supper and ending just after Christ's death on the Cross, for which there is silence and all present kneel.

The three deacons then leave and the deacon of the Mass asks for the blessing, incenses the Gospel book, and sings in a special chant-tone the burial of Christ. The separation from the Passion reading may not be intuitive, but it is instructive: this is the Gospel reading of the Mass, not the Passion—which is an interpolation into Mass. Christ's death and burial are the point of this Mass, which should clear up confusion for us, as opposed to those who watched these events two thousand years ago with little or no break, and who were left in bewilderment as to what to make of the drear they had just witnessed.

In the video to below, Fr. Tim Finigan sings the Gospel of Holy Tuesday in the same tone used for the Gospel of today. It is sublime.


The Mass continues as normal, with no extra "frills."



At Vespers the hymn Vexilla Regis is sung, which beings with the words:
Abroad the regal banners fly,
Now shines the cross’s mystery;
Upon it Life did death endure, 
And yet by death did life procure.
The hymn makes a conclusive elucidation of the mystery of Palm Sunday, that the Cross is slowly unveiled before our eyes. We do not merely read about it in the Scripture or hear some analysis in the sermon, but we enter these mystical events which are so monumental that they do not know the limits of time. Perhaps one of the great tragedies in the Roman rite in the last century or so is that with the endless stream of reforms begun by St. Pius X, furthered by Pius XII, and concluded by Paul VI, we have lost the notion that the liturgy reveals mystery to us, that it is a method of worshiping God, but also a tool God gives us to understand Him.  The raising of Lazarus, the veiling of the Cross, the Old Testament significance of the palms, the restless and lamenting entrance into Jerusalem, and the Cross itself make "sense" to us here. Through the lessons, the Mass, the hymns, and procession today God lifts the veil of ignorance the people of Jerusalem had when they went to see the One who raised a man from the dead and, in their own understanding, turned Him over for death, not realizing His dominion over it. 

The textual wealth of the ancient Roman Holy Week reflects the rich austerity of the Latin tradition. Scripture and psalms narrative a liturgy in which the Church stands in the presence of God and revisits events belonging to a place outside of time and space, belonging to eternity. While the Roman rite lacks the explicitly didactic quality of the Greek tradition, the simplicity of the rite—veiled in an odd tongue and a music belonging unto itself—perfectly present the awesomeness of God and the desperate need of the sinner for His forgiveness. With Christ, the sinner enters Jerusalem unwelcomed. The sinner witnesses the Passion again. The sinner proclaims the one wearing a crown of mockery his master. The sinner encounters God in His words and actions.

A blessed Palm Sunday to all.