Friday, April 10, 2009

Vos fugam capietis et ego vadam immolari pro vobis.

In the second responsory for the Office of Tenebrae, the words of Christ are, in the literal sense of the word, con-fused. They are fused together. Please do not mistake this for the usual meaning of confused, as in mixed-up. This is a masterful fusing together, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Sad is my soul unto death: stay ye here and watch with me; now ye shall see the mob that shall surround me: Ye all shall flee and leave me and I will go to be immolated for you. Behold, the hour is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the hands of sinners. Ye all shall flee and leave me and I will go to be immolated for you.
The Office of Tenebrae, as pointed out on the New Liturgical Movement, is one of the most ancient of all liturgical celebrations in the Church. The Divine Office in the Roman Breviary is stunningly beautiful and expressive of the very mysteries that are being celebrated. If, as NLM recounts, St Benedict thought the Office of Tenebrae to be too ancient to change, why did Msgr Bugnini and his collaborators have no such scruples? If the Liturgies go back to the time before Benedict of Nursia, and are so expressive of the mysteries, why were they completely done away with?
If the Office of Tenebrae is one of the liturgical celebrations that the faithful attended other than Mass, why mess with it? This is one of those questions that will continue to be unanswered until the Last Day.
Last night, before mine eyes, I saw the this antiphon lived out. By the time I got devested, all the "faithful" had fled and left Him. It is truly heart-rending. I have never in my life been in a parish where this happened. I didn't expect there to be a huge crowd, but at least a few? Perhaps I should have learnt my lesson from 40 Hours, when none of the English-speakers came.
Again today, after the Solemn Afternoon Liturgy, having received the monition from me that the Church asks us to genuflect to the Cross, and leave in silence, I would have expected people at least to wait until they left the church building before beginning their inane conversations. You would think that the Lord's Passion and Death had not just been recounted and liturgically celebrated. Please, people, try to keep you conversations like those of the disciples of the Lord on the way home from burying Him.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Consummatum Est

As we begin Holy week, we see in the Liturgy a prime example of how fickle man can be. At the beginning of the week, the crowds are cheering as Our Lord enters the Holy City for the last time. They strew their cloaks on the ground before Him, and wave palm branches, shouting Hosanna Filio David, Rex Israel! Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini, Hosanna in excelsis! At the end of the week they are shouting Crucifige eum!
On Palm Sunday, we receive palm branches, which are blessed. They are a sacramental, that is to remind us that we wish to be in the former crowd, not the latter. By our works, we shout either Hosanna to the Son of David or Crucify Him. Sacramentals help us to be more open to the grace of God. The Church, in her wisdom, has established many sacramentals to aid the Christian Faithful in their journey to eternal life. One would be foolish to leave these tools of our salvation unused.
As Our Lord neared death, according to St John, he said consummatum est, as the Latin reads. The English translation does not do justice to this. There is nuptual imagery used here, consumation, by which the couple seals their marriage. The death on the Cross is the act by which our Divine Bridegroom sealed His marriage covenant with His Bride, the Church. There is also the connection to consume -- Christ, according to St Paul, takes up all history in Himself. He sanctifies all creation.
Many non-Catholics will use this passage to condemn the Sacrifice of the Mass. Of course, this is wrong, because they don't understand what they are condemning in the first place (they don't really know the Catholic teaching), and in the second place, they don't understand memorial.
In the Jewish understanding of memorial, it means more than just to commemorate or call to mind something or someone. When pious Jews celebrate the Passover, they understand that through that liturgical meal, God is making present the very events of their salvation from slavery in Egypt. They aren't just reminding one another about it! In the context of that celebration (probably anticipated), Christ establishes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, commanding His Apostles Do this in memory of me.
The gift Christ gave to us in the Eucharist, through the gift of the Priesthood, is the ability to make present the events of our salvation. While celebrating the Passover for the last time, He transforms it and shows it to be a prefiguring of what He was to do. He then gives the power to His Apostles, who have handed it down through the generations, until He comes, to make the events of our salvation present in every time and place. The Jews knew that God transcends time and space, and is able to make events that are far distant present to us today.
When we celebrate the Mass, we are truly standing on the hill of Golgatha; we are peering with Sts Peter and John into the empty tomb; we are standing with the others on the Mount of Olives as He ascends! Imagine! Some think Mass is boring!
It is finished! At the same time, by the gift of the Eucharist, it continues through time and space to our present day, in our own town.