‘The celebration of… Holy Thursday renews for us the hour of Christ, the hour when, by the sign of the Eucharist, He declared Himself the Champion of humanity in the combat against Satan. But the Holy Thursday observance renews that hour not only as any commemoration might revive a memory: it actually reproduces that hour so that we may all have part in it. In anticipating His Passion in this sign, Christ gave at the same time the sacrament that was to re-enact the Passion for His followers and, by this sacrament, gave the entire Christian sacramental system. All the other sacraments are in germ in the Eucharist since it embodies the Saviour’s Passion and they are only complementary aspects of the victory He won for us. On Holy Thursday, too, the blessing of the oils establishes a link between the primordial Mass and the important sacraments of baptism, confirmation, holy orders, and extreme unction. Speaking more generally, all the Christian liturgy is a perpetual renewal of the mystery of Christ, suffering, dying, and rising again to deprive the demon of his power over men and to reconcile them with His Father’.
from The Paschal Mystery: Meditations on the Last Three Days of Holy Week
by Fr Louis Bouyer, Cong. Orat., 1913-2004
‘The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people are met today, in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers who have received a favourable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days back? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in his defence? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over before apprehending Jesus.
But these bloodthirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees, – which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world’s salvation, - have fixed this very year’s Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, tomorrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus’ Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one.
But how are Jesus’ enemies to get possession of their divine Victim, so as to avoid a disturbance in the City? There is only one plan that could succeed, and they have not thought of it: it is treachery. Just at the close of their deliberations they are told that one of Jesus’ Disciples seeks admission. They admit him, and he says to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? They are delighted at this proposition: and yet how is it, that they, doctors of the law, forget that this infamous bargain between themselves and Judas has all been foretold by David in the 108th Psalm? They know the Scriptures from beginning to end; - how comes it, that they forget the words of the Prophet, who even mentions the sum of thirty pieces of silver. Judas asks them what they will give him; and they give him thirty pieces of silver! All is arranged: tomorrow Jesus will be in Jerusalem eating the Pasch with his Disciples. In the evening he will go, as usual, to the Garden on Mount Olivet. But how shall they, who are sent to seize him, be able to distinguish him from his Disciples? Judas will lead the way; he will show them which is Jesus, by going up to him and kissing him!
Such is the impious scheme devised on this day, within the precincts of the Temple of Jerusalem’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who didst will that thy Son should suffer death upon the Cross that thou mightest deliver us from the snares of the enemy: grant that by the merits of his Passion and Death we may know the power of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Spy Wednesday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Church has prepared us step by step for this sacred experience [of Holy Week]. A steady crescendo in the liturgy has been taking place since Septuagesima Sunday. Each week the sound rose higher, and louder. Although Mother Church often spoke about the Cross and the resurrection, she did so in veiled signs and figures, as if she feared exposing a most precious object to profane eyes. Not until this moment does she remove the curtain. Now we see the Holy of Holies; and more than that, we are asked to participate in the most sublime drama of religious history.
…We should not call it a week of mourning, for Cross and resurrection are inseparable. Christ’s redemptive work did not end with death, it continues on in the victory of His resurrection. Therefore, we must not separate the passion from the resurrection, but rather regard the Cross as the way to Easter victory.
The liturgy does not make this week one of sorrowful lamentation or tearful sympathising with our suffering Lord. That was the medieval approach. No, through the whole week there runs a note of victory and joy, a realisation that Christ’s sacred passion was a prerequisite to Easter glory. We cannot understand the Church’s liturgy unless we keep this in mind’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O Lord God, whose blessed Son, our Saviour, gave his back to the smiters and hid not his face from shame: grant us grace to take joyfully the suffering of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The passion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ gives us the confidence of glory and a lesson in the endurance of suffering.
Is there anything which the hearts of the faithful may not promise themselves from the grace of God? It was not enough that the only Son of God, co-eternal with the Father, should be born as man from man for them – he even died for them at the hands of men, whom he had created.
What God promises us for the future is great, but what we recall as already done for us is much greater. When Christ died for the wicked, where were they or what were they? Who can doubt that he will give the saints his life, since he has already given them his death? Why is human weakness slow to believe that men will one day live with God?
A much more incredible thing has already happened: God died for men… he carried out a wonderful transaction with us through our mutual sharing: he died from what was ours, we will live from what is his.
So far from being ashamed at the death of the Lord our God, we must have the fullest trust in it; it must be our greatest boast, for by assuming from us death, which he found in us, he pledged most faithfully to give us life in himself, which we could not have our ourselves’.
from a sermon by St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Monday in Holy Week, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘They had always wanted to make Him a king. Right up to the end His immediate disciples always had this idea very prominent in their thoughts. Even on the Mount of the Ascension they were to ask Him that question which seems to us so unbelievably stupid: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Still harping on their idea of an earthly kingdom greater than Solomon’s!
Well, today they should have their will. The time had come for the fulfilling of the remaining prophecies about Him.
So He rode forward on the ass, and they hailed Him as king… With Him goes a great crowd from outside Jerusalem, mostly Galileans come up for the Feast, at least half-convinced that He is the Messiah, ready to go all the way with Him if He will give them a lead, the more so that He is a Galilean, and they will show these Judean Jews that Galilee can do something worth while after all. And as they go on towards Jerusalem they will be joined by many who heard that He had arrived at Bethany, and were on their way out to see Him who had not been seen since He raised Lazarus.
…We keep Palm Sunday. We sing our hymn: “All glory, laud, and honour to Thee, Redeemer, King”. It is a royal procession we take part in. He is our King. Even knowing about Good Friday and what He will be like then, scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed up there – as Cardinal Newman said once – like a noxious bird on a barn door, He is our King. His Kingdom is not of this world. But then men are not of this world either – mid-way between animal and angel is man – and it is in men’s hearts and wills that His Kingdom lies. He will convert men, and they will reconstruct society. And He will conquer by love, or He will not conquer at all. Earthly kings are not crowned with thorns, and scourged, and robed in blood, or, if they are, they do not turn the world upside down.
…We take our part in the procession.
Some go before and make ready the way – getting branches of trees and strewing them in the way – spreading garments in the way. So some of you give personal service, and make personal sacrifices. You long by any means in your power to do honour to Him. Some follow after, attracted by the crowd, and worked up by their enthusiasm – attracted by music, or by a popular preacher, or by striking ceremonial, or by the influence of a personal friend. And there are His nearest disciples, around Him wherever He goes, whether they understand or not. Even they will fail Him later in the week. Will you?’
from an address on Palm Sunday 1933 by Dom Bernard Clements OSB, 1880-1942
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us. O Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy upon us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy upon us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy upon us.
Jesus, the Eternal Widsom, have mercy upon us.
The Word made flesh, have mercy upon us.
Hated by the world, have mercy upon us.
Sold for thirty pieces of silver, have mercy upon us.
Sweating blood in Thy agony, have mercy upon us.
Betrayed by Judas, have mercy upon us.
Forsaken by Thy disciples, have mercy upon us.
Struck upon the cheek, have mercy upon us.
Accused by false witnesses, have mercy upon us.
Spit upon in the face, have mercy upon us.
Denied by Peter, have mercy upon us.
Mocked by Herod, have mercy upon us.
Scourged by Pilate, have mercy upon us.
Rejected for Barabbas, have mercy upon us.
Loaded with the cross, have mercy upon us.
Crowned with thorns, have mercy upon us.
Stripped of Thy garments, have mercy upon us.
Nailed to the tree, have mercy upon us.
Reviled by the Jews, have mercy upon us.
Scoffed at by the malefactor, have mercy upon us.
Wounded in the side, have mercy upon us.
Shedding Thy last drop of blood, have mercy upon us.
Forsaken by Thy Father, have mercy upon us.
Dying for our sins, have mercy upon us.
Taken down from the cross, have mercy upon us.
Laid in the sepulchre, have mercy upon us.
Rising gloriously, have mercy upon us.
Ascending into Heaven, have mercy upon us.
Sending down the Paraclete, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Sacrifice, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Mediator, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Judge, have mercy upon us.
Be merciful. Spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful. Graciously hear us, O Lord.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee,
Because through Thy Holy Cross Thou didst redeem the world.
Let us pray. O God, who for the redemption of the world wast pleased to be born; to be circumcised; to be rejected; to be betrayed; to be bound with thongs; to be led to the slaughter; to be shamefully gazed at; to be falsely accused; to be scourged and torn; to be spit upon, and crowned with thorns; to be mocked and reviled; to be buffeted and struck with rods; to be stripped; to be nailed to the cross; to be hoisted up thereon; to be reckoned among thieves; to have gall and vinegar to drink; to be pierced with a lance: through Thy most holy passion, which we, Thy sinful servants, call to mind, and by Thy holy cross and gracious death, deliver us from the pains of hell, and lead us whither Thou didst lead the thief who was crucified with Thee, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, God, world without end. Amen.
from his Litany of the Passion by Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
In both the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, one week exactly before Good Friday, Our Lady of Sorrows is today commemorated. In the Ordinariate it is known as ‘Saint Mary in Passiontide’, a day to recall the sufferings of Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross of her Son.
‘With Mary, God has worked for good in everything, and he does not cease, through Mary, to cause good to spread further in the world.
Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother. At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveller and protector on life’s journey. “By her motherly love she cares for her son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home”, as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (Lumen Gentium, 62). Yes indeed, in life we pass through high-points and low-points, but Mary intercedes for us with her Son and helps us to discover the power of his divine love, and to open ourselves to that love.
Our trust in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God and our gratitude for the help we have repeatedly experienced impel us, as it were, to think beyond the needs of the moment. What does Mary actually want to say to us, when she rescues us from some trial? She wants to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation. With a mother’s tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy. “Understand”, she seems to say to us, “that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields wholly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise”. Where God is, there is a future.
Indeed — when we allow God’s love to pervade and to shape the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open. Then it is possible so to shape the present that it corresponds more and more to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the little things of everyday life acquire meaning, and great problems find solutions.
Confident of this, we pray to Mary; confident of this, we put our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. Amen’.
Pope Benedict XVI
‘How pleasing and dear to God is that soul, and how fruitful will his meditations be, in which he inwardly suffers the pains of Jesus’ passion, is wounded to the heart by His wounds, and by reflecting on his death experiences a love-death with Him.
…Most gracious Lord Jesus, I ask thee, who in thy vast love deigned to pray for thine enemies, to pray with that same love for me to the Father that He grant me full pardon for all my sins and mercifully free me from the punishment I deserve for them. Grant me a firm and abiding trust in thy love, that I yield not to despair because of the greatness of my sins, rather that I remember that thou hast come into this world to save sinners and that it was thy will to suffer, to be crucified, and to die for the sinful.
…Lord, let my soul rejoice in thee and find joy in thy salvation, as I reflect on thy most consoling words, your second utterance from the Cross, “Amen I say unto thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise”. May these words, more tender because they came from thee as thou hung upon thy Cross, be often on my lips and still more often in my heart. Words addressed to me from the lips of my crucified Lord are most endearing and eloquent, and for this reason they merit more serious attention and profound reflection.
…Let meditating on Jesus Christ and Him crucified be your daily prayer. Keep Jesus always before your eyes and keep ever near the foot of His Cross. Whether in life or death, enter the tomb with Jesus so that when Christ, who is your life, shall appear again, you will rise with Him in glory. Amen’.
from On the Passion of Christ According to the Four Evangelists by Thomas à Kempis, c.1380-1471
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw one hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near his cross I stood.
Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with his death,
Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins his blood had spilt,
And helped to nail him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did:
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look he gave, which said,
‘I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live’.
Thus while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.
John Newton, 1725-1807
‘There could be only one thing perfectly worthy of being offered to perfect Love, and that would be something that embodied perfect love perfectly in our human nature, if human nature is to offer it. The divine Person of the Son of God in perfect love assumed a human nature. His love achieved this triumph, that He turned the climax of hate into the climax of love, making a masterpiece of spiritual beauty out of His murder by men. After his Ascension the Holy Spirit came, and one of His ceaseless energies is to make effective in the Eucharistic rite the very presence and reality of the perfect Sacrifice once offered on Mount Calvary, uniting the Eucharist celebrated this morning with that past of Calvary and with the everlasting present of the heavenly worship. Here are we, with the power to offer God the perfect Sacrifice; that which we offer is one in reality of love and identity of intention with the Sacrifice on Mount Calvary; and it is also one with the heavenly worship wherein the angels and archangels join with us as we join with them. So it is the perfect offering of perfect love to the all-perfect God Whom we worship, Who is Love, that we human beings are able to offer. What makes the Catholic Church altogether different from, and superior to, every other body is this: that we are able to offer and present unto God not only our selves, our souls and bodies, but the self, the soul, and the body of the perfect Man, tested to the uttermost, proved to the uttermost, triumphant in the uttermost - the perfect, everlasting Sacrifice’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Christ, my Lord, which for my sins didst hang upon a tree,
grant that thy grace in me, poor wretch, may still ingrafted be.
Grant that thy naked hanging there may kill in me all pride
and care of wealth, sith thou didst then in such poor state abide.
Grant that thy crown of pricking thorns, which thou for me didst wear,
may make me willing for thy sake all shame and pain to bear.
Grant that those scorns and taunts which thou didst on the cross endure
may humble me and in my heart all patience still procure.
Grant that thy praying for thy foes may plant within my breast
such charity as from my heart I malice may detest.
Grant that thy pierced hands, which did of nothing all things frame,
may move me to lift up my hand and ever praise thy name.
Grant that thy wounded feet, whose steps were perfect evermore,
may learn my feet to tread those paths which thou hast gone before.
Grant that those drops of blood which ran out from thy heart amain
may meek my heart into salt tears to see thy grievous pain.
Grant that thy blessed grave, wherein thy body lay awhile,
may bury all such vain delights as may my mind defile.
Grant that thy going down to them which did thy sight desire
may keep my soul, when I am dead, clean from the purging fire.
Grant that thy rising up from death may raise my thoughts from sin;
grant that thy parting from this earth from earth my heart may win.
Grant, Lord, that they ascending then may lift my mind to thee
that there my heart and joy may rest, though here in flesh I be. Amen.
St Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel, 1557-1595
‘The body we receive in this sacrament is a body that died, and having died was buried. The body was done to death and laid in a tomb, to wait for a divine miracle. Christ lies in his sepulchre the image of Christian hope; nothing lies there but the bare hope of resurrection. Hope stretches between sacrifice and life renewed. Vision can often see no further than the sacrifice which God’s commandments impose; it cannot descry the enrichment of life which God’s grace intends. Hope holds the gap. “Must I rule the appetite of sex within the law of Christ, must I persevere in practices of prayer which are dry and seemingly infertile? It is death to my spirits. What life will ever come of it for the Christian people or for me?” If this is death, I ought to embrace it for Christ’s sake, and be willing not only to die, but to lie dead in sure and certain hope. Where the burial of Christ is, there the resurrection of Christ will be”’.
from The Crown of the Year: Weekly Paragraphs for the Holy Sacrament, 1952
by Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people: that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and in soul; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Passion Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
‘St Vincent Ferrer’s father was an Englishman, who had been knighted at the siege of the city. On February 5th, 1367, having completed his studies in philosophy, he became a Dominican. He was moved to Barcelona in the next year, and in 1370 became lecturer in philosophy at the Dominican house in Lerida. In 1373, when he returned to Barcelona to the “Studium Arabicum et Hebraicum”, he was already a famous public preacher.
In 1377 he was sent to Toulouse for further study; there he attracted the attention of the Legate of the future Avignon antipope, Cardinal Pedro de Luna, whose suite he joined, being himself a strong advocate of the claims of the Avignon popes as against those of Rome. He preached a great deal, particularly to Jews and Moors, and converted a rabbi of Valladolid, who, later became Bishop Paul of Burgos, and associated with St Vincent in his strenuous and successful attempts to convert the Jews of Spain.
Disillusioned in his attempts to heal the schism between Rome and Avignon, St Vincent saw a vision of our Lord standing between St Dominic and St Francis, commissioning him directly to go about preaching penance. He was released by Benedict XIII in November 1399 to do this, and continued his preaching and wandering throughout western Europe until his death, being followed by a crowd of penitents and flagellants which varied from 300 to 10,000. He was in Aragon when the throne became vacant and with his brother, Boniface, a Carthusian, was instrumental in choosing Ferdinand of Castille as prince.
In 1416 he withdrew his own allegiance and that of the kingdom of Aragon from Benedict XIII, because the Avignon antipope had made no serious attempt to heal the schism and had refused the request made by the council of Constance that he should resign in order to make possible a new and undisputed election to the papacy. St Vincent’s decision had the effect of deposing Benedict and of making possible an end to the schism. St Vincent died on April 5th, 1419, at Vannes in Brittany, where his relics are venerated. He was canonised by Pope Calixtus II in 1455’.
from The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, 1958, edited by John Coulson, 1919-1993
O God, who didst vouchsafe to illumine thy Church by the merits and preaching of blessed Vincent thy Confessor: grant to us thy servants; that we may both be instructed by his example, and by his advocacy be delivered from all adversities; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Isidore sought in Christ’s example the definitive confirmation of a just orientation of life and said: “The Saviour Jesus offers us the example of active life when during the day he devoted himself to working signs and miracles in the town, but he showed the contemplative life when he withdrew to the mountain and spent the night in prayer”. In the light of this example of the divine Teacher, Isidore can conclude with this precise moral teaching: “Therefore let the servant of God, imitating Christ, dedicate himself to contemplation without denying himself active life. Behaving otherwise would not be right. Indeed, just as we must love God in contemplation, so we must love our neighbour with action. It is therefore impossible to live without the presence of both the one and the other form of life, nor can we live without experiencing both the one and the other”. I consider that this is the synthesis of a life that seeks contemplation of God, dialogue with God in prayer and in the reading of Sacred Scripture, as well as action at the service of the human community and of our neighbour. This synthesis is the lesson that the great Bishop of Seville has bequeathed to us, Christians of today, called to witness to Christ at the beginning of a new millennium’.
from a general audience, 18 June 2008, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, by whose providence blessed Isidore was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Our pilgrim life on earth cannot be without temptation for it is through temptation that we make progress and it is only by being tempted that we come to know ourselves. We cannot win our crown unless we overcome, and we cannot overcome unless we enter the contest and there is no contest unless we have an enemy and the temptations he brings.
…When [Jesus] willed to be tempted by the devil, he figuratively transferred us into himself. We have just read in the gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted in the desert by the devil and this is exactly what happened. In Christ you were being tempted because Christ had his human flesh from you, just as he won salvation for you from himself. He received death from you, just as he gained life from himself for you. From you he received reproaches and from himself for you he gained glory and honour. In the same way he suffered the temptation for you and he won from himself the victory for you.
If we have been tempted in him, in him we conquer the devil. Do you notice that Christ has been tempted and fail to notice that he overcame the temptation? Recognise your own self, tempted in him and conquering also in him. He might have avoided the devil completely but, had he not been tempted, he would have failed to give you the lesson of conquering when you are tempted’.
from the Discourses on the Psalms by St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
‘Francis of Paola founded the Minim Order, a branch of the Franciscans (1454). These “Hermits of St Francis of Assisi” dwelt in small houses, and as “least” brethren, endeavoured to live a more austere and humble life than the “Fratres Minores”.
The saint worked numerous miracles. He had a favourite ejaculation, one that welled up from the depths of his physical and spiritual being: “Out of love”. This was an all-powerful ejaculation for him and for his companions. “Out of love” the heaviest stone was light; “Out of love” he admonished and punished; “Out of love” he once crossed the sea without a boat.
For on a certain occasion the saint wanted to go from the Italian mainland to Sicily. A boat was lying in the harbour. Francis asked the owner if he would take him and his companion along on the boat. “If you pay, monk”, the sailor answered sulkily, “I will take you along”. “Out of love”, the saint humbly pleaded; “for I have no money with me”. “Then I have no ship for you”, came the mocking reply. “Out of love”, was Francis’ answer, “forgive me if I go away”. He walked about a stone’s throw to the shore, knelt down, and blessed the sea. Then, to the sailor’s great surprise, the saint suddenly stood up, stepped out on the tossing waves, and with firm foot trod over the surging sea.
St Francis of Paola stood high in the esteem of the French king, Louis XI, whom he helped prepare for death’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who, by exalting the humble, didst raise the blessed Confessor Francis to the glory of thy Saints: grant, we beseech thee; that, through his merits and example, we may attain with gladness unto the rewards promised to them that are lowly of heart; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
O what a cunning guest
Is this same grief! within my heart I made
Closets; and in them many a chest;
And, like a master in my trade,
In those chests, boxes; in each box, a till:
Yet grief knows all, and enters when he will.
No screw, no piercer can
Into a piece of timber work and wind,
As God’s afflictions into man,
When he a torture hath designed.
They are too subtle for the subtlest hearts;
And fall, like rheums, upon the tend’rest parts.
We are the earth; and they,
Like moles within us, heave, and cast about:
And till they foot and clutch their prey,
They never cool, much less give out.
No smith can make such locks but they have keys:
Closets are halls to them; and hearts, high-ways.
Only an open breast
Doth shut them out, so that they cannot enter;
Or, if they enter, cannot rest,
But quickly seek some new adventure.
Smooth open hearts no fast’ning have; but fiction
Doth give a hold and handle to affliction.
Wherefore my faults and sins,
Lord, I acknowledge; take thy plagues away:
For since confession pardon wins,
I challenge here the brightest day,
The clearest diamond: let them do their best,
They shall be thick and cloudy to my breast.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace, may mercifully be relieved; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Collect for Lætare Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There seems almost to be a suggestion of pious, cloistered humour in the collect for Mid-Lent Sunday. As this is Refreshment Sunday our forefathers in the faith, while recognising their responsibility for the sin that made necessary the austerity of the season, yet claim some momentary relief before they enter on the special rigour of passiontide. If that is so, they certainly pass on from the thought of the particular relief to the more general consideration of final redemption and its release from the consequence of sin.
The attitude of the prayer is one of complete sincerity before God. We recognise our true condition. There is no attempt to offer excuses. We do not begin, as so many poor things have done when faced with the imminence of severe illness, bereavement, or death: “But I’ve done no wrong: why should this happen to me?” We admit our evil deeds and the justice of our punishment. We throw ourselves on God’s mercy. We admit that we worthily deserve to be punished.
Is this sincerity true of us individually as we repeat the prayer? How conscious are we of our own guilt? It is very easy to listen to the words as they are said or sung by the priest. We can even in a fashion accept them without letting them penetrate very deeply into our consciousness. All our responsibility and conventionality toughen the fibre of our self-respect and make it really difficult for such sentiments to pierce through to the heart. We need therefore to examine ourselves seriously as to our own state of mind.
To what evil deeds are we confessing? Mere peccadilloes, for which we excuse ourselves as soon as they are committed? Or real faults, for which we know in our heart of hearts there is no adequate excuse? Certainly, if we look deep enough, we shall find much of which we must honestly say, “My fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault”. We feel guilty both for what we have done and probably more for what we have left undone.
…For all this we acknowledge that we “worthily deserve to be punished”. No doubt we are talking in rather childish language. But as this is Mothering Sunday it is perhaps natural that we should revert to the language of the nursery, where, after all, the foundations of our moral life were laid. In any case there is an honesty and simplicity about it that is very refreshing. It is better than much of the psychology of today, which would put the blame for our bad dispositions on our environment, heredity, or childhood misadventures’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Bishop Synesius, 375-430, translated by A.W. Chatfield, 1808-1896
The English Hymnal no.77
‘In Lent we gaze at the divine figure of our Lord, and two things are brought specially before us, His temptation in the wilderness, and His suffering and death at Jerusalem. For Him, as for us and for every one, the real religious conflict must be fought in solitude. We see this conflict fought out in our Lord’s life of prayer; proved in His contacts with life and with people; consummated by His Passion and death upon the Cross. Lent calls each one of us personally to imitate our Lord’s retirement into the wilderness by the deepening of our own spiritual adventure, to honour His Passion by bringing into our lives deliberate self-denial, to expect that the reality of our faith and prayer will have its proving in the common contacts and experiences of life. The Christian’s faith issues in the Christian’s life; the Christian’s life is proved by the Christian’s sacrifice. We have to fight out our own spiritual battle in solitude and silence, and the result will be proved in our contacts with people, and consummated in the ultimate sacrifice wherein we yield up our life to God’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘Lent prepares us to commemorate the death of our Lord on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter morning.
But what do we mean by commemorate? Not just remembering an ancient story but finding how the death of Jesus can mean more to us than ever before, and how the risen life of Jesus is something in which we may actually be sharing. Start by putting our aim into a prayer: Thanks be to thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast won for me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me: most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly.
Realising the meaning of his death, sharing in his risen life: that is our goal. Our way will include our prayer, our sharing in the Holy Communion, our reading… But this will not be in a vacuum, but in the midst of the world around us. In the terrible suffering of our time Jesus suffers. By the cruelties and evil of our time Jesus suffers. So, linking our Lent with the world around us, pray now for some who suffer whether near or far; and pray now for some near or far whose cruelty or callousness is wounding Jesus’.
A.M. Ramsey, Lord Ramsey of Canterbury, 1904-1988 (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1961-1974)
Congratulations to my colleague Monsignor Carl Reid (second from right, above), who was yesterday named as the new Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Southern Cross in Australia, in succession to Mgr Harry Entwistle (who, like myself, was once of the Anglican Diocese of Blackburn). Mgr Reid is presently the Administrator of Blessed John Henry Newman, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and will be installed as Ordinary at the end of August. I was privileged to be present for his ordination to the priesthood in Ottawa in 2013 and honoured to be asked to preach at his First Mass. Australia and its Ordinariate will be greatly blessed by this appointment.
‘You are invited to a sterner discipline than merely giving up sugar for Lent! It is the discipline of a pilgrimage, a journey into scripture, a journey into your deepest self, a journey into God. Like all good disciplines, positive good emerges with accompanying joy, and closer proximity to that union in Love which is the goal of all our journeyings. We are all on pilgrimage anyway – from the cradle to the grave, and through the gateway of death into eternity. So any smaller pilgrimages on this larger journey which can infuse meaning and joy into life’s twisting and (hopefully) ascending pathway, should be treasured.
It is in the nature of life’s journey to include days of spring sunshine where bounding life and vitality initiate the adventure, running into summer days of lingering on plateaux of shared work and play, sustained by the bread and wine of loving communion and spurred on by personal and corporate vision. The pathway becomes more difficult and yet more rewarding in the autumn mists of unknowing, with the fruitful contemplative vistas of mature understanding. Then there are the wintry blasts of icy wind and freezing fog which we have to suffer for ourselves or on behalf of our loved ones.
Yet the path does not decline into the valley of the shadow of death, but is meant to be gently ascending into the greater mystery and deeper awareness of the divine Love. It is a personal and corporate journey, but whether alone or with others, we are called into the deeper fellowship of Christ our Saviour, Friend and Brother.
Indeed, the whole pilgrimage is centred upon him. He is our fellow pilgrim who accompanies us on the way, and dwells within us on the journey. We tread in the footsteps of the historical Jesus, and we commune in mystical vision with the indwelling Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the Christ personal and real to us on this pilgrimage, and it is toward the glory of the Father that we move. The scriptures are our map and the sacraments sustain us on the way from earth to heaven’.
Brother Ramon SSF, 1936-2000
‘Our Lady said yes for the human race. Each one of us must echo that yes for our lives.
We are all asked if we will surrender what we are, our humanity, our flesh and blood to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life.
The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust; it must be like Our Lady’s surrender, without condition and without reservation.
What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life, our thoughts, our service to one another, our affections and loves, our words, our intellect, our waking, working and sleeping, our ordinary human joys and sorrows - to God.
To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world - that is what we shall be asked.
Our Lady has made this possible. Her fiat was for herself and for us, but if we want God’s will to be completed in us as it was in her, we must echo her fiat’.
Caryll Houselander, 1901-1954
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace int our hearts: that, as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel; so by his Cross and Passion we may be brought unto the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
The Acolyte’s Toolbox