Category Archives: Liturgy

Easter. It happened.

-Most Reverend Robert Barron, Auxilliary Bishop of Los Angeles
April 12, 2020

“Here’s the first thing I want you to know about the Resurrection: it happened. Why do I say it that way? This has been around for a long time, but many people today, way too many, will say, well, the Resurrection is a nice story. It’s a nice myth, like many other myths of dying and rising gods. We can find these in different cultures and religions all over the world. It’s just one more iteration of this ancient story. Maybe has a moral meaning to it. Now, I’d be willing to bet if there were some young Catholics, young Christians listening to me, I bet you’ve heard some version of that in your college or university classroom.

It’s a very common view and kind of a cultural elite. Well, whenever I hear this, I think of a saying of C.S. Lewis, the great writer. Lewis, one of whose academic specialties was the study of mythic literature. Lewis said, “Those who say the Gospels are mythic haven’t read many myths.” Now, here’s what he meant, I think. A myth, and I love the myth, by the way. I remember vividly I was in seventh grade when I was kind of introduced to the Greek and Roman myth. I had to do a report on them. I’ve loved those stories from that day to this day.

Myths are stories with a symbolic importance. They speak of great general truths about the world, about nature, about society, about the psyche. Think, for example, of the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome. Well, they’re personifications, if you want, of the natural necessities. Think of Poseidon of the sea, and Zeus of the air, and Demeter of the earth, et cetera, et cetera. Wonderful myths. They convey great general truths, which is why, by the way, myths are always set in some kind of indefinite, distant time.

We say once upon a time. Or bring it up to date: a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. See, Star Wars is a very good example of a modern myth. A very effective one, I must say. It’s captured the minds of people all over the world. That’s because it taps into this sort of mythic consciousness. As I say, great. I like the myths. But we’re not dealing here in Christianity with a myth. The Resurrection is not one more iteration of this ancient story. Now, here’s the clue. You heard it in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Listen. This is St. Peter, by the way, speaking. “You know what’s happened all over Judea, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. We are witnesses of all that he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.” As I say, myths are set once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away. No one ever wonders, hmm, who was the political leader when Hercules was around? Or you know when Osiris rose from the dead? Who was the pharaoh at that time? I mean, no one’s gonna ask a question like that because those are inappropriate questions.

But listen to this man. You know what happened in Judea and about this Jesus from Nazareth. You know Nazareth, where that is. And the country of the Jews, that means the area around Jerusalem, and things that happened in the city of – you people know all this. This is for my Southern California friends. But apply it now in your own situation. If I were to begin a story this way, I met this guy first in Oxnard, and then I saw him again in Montecito, and then just last week, he was here in Santa Barbara, would you think for a second that I was about to tell you a mythic story?

No. You’d say he’s telling me something that really happened to him. He’s naming times and places. Can you hear now how Peter’s language is much more like that than it is like mythic language? Now, listen to how this thing ends, how Peter’s oration ends. Again, not some generic myth. “This man God raised on the third day and granted that He be seen, not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” Now, I suggest you can spend the rest of the Easter season with that last line. In fact, you can spend the rest of your life with that last line. We, who ate and drank with him, this Jesus from Nazareth, whom you saw, that one. We ate and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. Takes your breath away the realism of it.

Here’s something else. When you read a myth or you read, let’s say, a writing by a spiritual teacher, there’s something very serene about it. It’s conveying important truths, sure. But it’s told using a kind of detached, serene manner. Pick up the New Testament. Now, maybe a lot of you haven’t been reading much of the New Testament recently.

Pick it up, any page, Matthew through Revelation. What you find there is not serene, detached reflection on abstract spiritual truths. What you find on every page of it is what I would call a grab you by the lapels quality. See, something happened to these people. Myths can be made up in the privacy of your home or in a faculty lounge. You know what I’m saying? But these people aren’t talking that way. Something happened to them that was like an explosion. And the after effects are being felt to this moment. They wanted to go all over the world and tell everyone they possibly could that this Jesus rose from the dead.

Here’s something else. How many missionaries of Hercules are there? The answer? None. How many martyrs for Osiris are there? Answer? None. Because those are mythic figures. People don’t become missionaries and martyrs on behalf of mythic characters. Of Jesus? Missionaries? Are you kidding? These people went careering around the world with this urgent sense of mission to tell the whole world. Martyrs? Yep. Every single one of His most intimate followers, with the exception of John, met a martyr’s death.

Well, you can’t fly right now because of this coronavirus. But the minute that’s over, you can get on a plane if you want. You can fly to Rome. You can visit the grave of the man who said these words, “We who ate and drank with Him after His resurrection from the dead.” I’ll show exactly where he’s buried because it’s the biggest, most beautiful grave marker in the whole world. It’s called Saint Peter’s Basilica. And that’s where the man who said these words is buried, who was crucified upside down, rather than to deny the truth of what he saw. Myths? Give me a break, myths.

And again, young people listening to me, if you hear that in your college classrooms, or university, or you read it, don’t you believe it. That’s not what these people are talking about. And the explosive power of the Resurrection message felt to this day. Okay. I wanna tell you now three things. We got a little time. It’s the coronavirus. You’re not going anywhere. So, I’m gonna give you three implications, once we accept the fact of the Resurrection. Here’s the first one; the first implication of the Resurrection. Jesus is who He said He was. Think about Jesus, he’s always a great spiritual teacher.

Well, yeah. You could distill spiritual teachings from Jesus, sure. What was really interesting about Jesus was that He spoke and acted in the very person of God. Unless you love Me more than your mother and father, more than your very life, you are not worthy of Me. Can you imagine any other spiritual teacher saying that? That’d be the height of arrogance unless He in person is the highest good. You’ve heard it said in the Torah, but I say, for a first-century Jew, that was outrageous speech. Torah, highest law possible. The law that God gave to Moses.

Who could claim authority over it, except the author of the Torah himself? My son, your sins are forgiven you. And the people say, well, who does this man think he is? Only God can forgive sins. Quite right. Heaven and Earth will pass away. My words will never pass away. Who could say that except the eternal word of God? Now, what was the reaction to Jesus? Well, you can see it in the Gospel. Some, sure, they were fascinated and they followed Him. Others were kinda puzzled, and wondered about it. Others hated Him and hounded Him to His death because of it.

What did the first witnesses of the Resurrection realize? Huh. He is who He said He was. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the ratification of his claim to speak and act in the very person of God. Now, listen. If Jesus is not just one spiritual teacher among many, one philosopher among many, but rather, if Jesus is Himself God made flesh, then we have to give our whole life to Him, right? If He is who He says He is, well then, I have to surrender my whole life to Him. There’s the first implication of the Resurrection. Here’s the second one: our sins are forgiven.

The resurrected Christ always does two things. Look at all the accounts of the Resurrection appearances. First, He shows His wounds, and then He says, “Shalom.” Now, the showing of the wounds. Why is that important? Don’t forget what you did. The author of life came, and we killed Him. There’s that stark message. I preached on it the other day. The author of life came, and we killed Him. I’m okay and you’re okay. Come on. Everything’s just fine with me. Give me a break. The wounds of Jesus are the sign of our own spiritual dysfunction, and don’t forget it, is what the risen Lord is saying.

That’s a salutary move that we are aware of our sinfulness. But then what follows the showing of the wounds? Not vengeance. Now, you’d expect that in any Hollywood movie, and actually, in many of the myths of the world. What would you expect? This poor man, who had been betrayed and denied, abandoned him at the moment of truth. And now, he’s back from the dead. What would you expect if you’re watching a Hollywood movie? Well, he’s gonna visit his vengeance upon them. But the risen Jesus says, “Shalom.” Peace.

And that’s a word, everybody, that is basic in the Bible. It sums up what God wants for His people, what God has wanted from the beginning. What sin has interrupted is shalom, peace. That means well-being at every level. But here’s the thing: to those who had denied, betrayed, run from him, abandoned him, he says a word of forgiveness and peace. We killed God, and God returned in forgiving love. You see what that means? Do you see what that means? We killed God, and God returned in forgiving love. That means there’s no sin that God can’t, in principle, forgive. There’s nothing that can finally separate us from the love of God.

And doesn’t Paul say exactly that in Romans? “I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither height or death, or any other creature could ever separate us from the love of God.” Paul knows that because he met the risen Jesus, who showed his wounds and said, “Shalom.” The second great implication of the Resurrection is our sins are forgiven. Third and final implication: the Resurrection shows who is our king and what our mission ought to be. You remember Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, puts a mocking sign over the cross, this pathetic figure crucified, and over the cross, the sign, “Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum,” Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.

And just so no one would miss it, Pilate put it in Hebrew and Greek, as well. So, everybody could see. It was meant as a joke. Look at this poor, pathetic man, who claimed to be the king of the Jews. What do they sense now after the Resurrection? That the joke was on Pilate because this risen Christ is, in fact, the king of the Jews, therefore, the king of all nations. And, deliciously, Pilate thereby became the first great Evangelist, announcing to all the nations in all the relevant languages, “You’ve got a new king.” Now, that’s the message of the first Christians.

Pick up your New Testament. Open up to any of the letters from Saint Paul. What will you find? Like a refrain, Jesus kurios, Jesus kurios, Jesus Christos, Jesus Christos. Jesus, the Lord. Jesus, the Messiah. Who was lord in that world? Well, there was a watchword: Kaiser kurios. Caesar’s lord. Caesar’s king. He’s the one to whom your allegiance is due. What’s Paul saying? How revolutionary it was. Not Kaiser, but rather someone whom Kaiser put to death, but whom God raised from the dead. Jesus kurios. Jesus is the lord. He’s the one now to whom your allegiance is due. See, and here’s the point. I’ll close everybody with this.

Here’s the point: stop messing around with Caesar and all of his successors to the present day. I mean, all these phony kings, all these false claimants to ultimate allegiance. Don’t give your life, and heart, and mind to them. Their day is over. Who’s the real king? Well, Pilate told us. Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum. Jesus of Nazareth, He’s the king. He’s the one now to Whom we should give our hearts, we should give our minds, we should give our energy, we should give our bodies and souls. He’s the one to Whom final allegiance is due. So, everybody, on this Easter day, rejoice because Jesus is Lord. Rejoice because our sins have been forgiven. Rejoice because we know who’s the king, and we have our mission.”

Love, Resurrection, & Easter joy,
Matthew

The Timing of Jesus’ Death 2


-wall mosaic of entombment of Jesus, Church of Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel. Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Karlo Broussard

“I argued that John’s phrase “the day of preparation of Passover” (John 18:28) doesn’t refer to the day on which Jews prepare for Passover, but the Friday of Passover week. This resolves what some have said is a contradiction between John and the Synoptics concerning whether Jesus died before the Passover meal or after.

But some argue against this solution. Let’s consider some of their counters.

One is that Jews would not have held an execution on such an important Jewish feast day as Passover. However, it was not Jews who performed the execution, but Romans. The Jewish authorities had not been able to arrest Jesus until after the Passover meal, and then they brought him to Pilate, who determined when the Crucifixion took place.

He could have kept Jesus in prison awaiting execution, as he was doing with the rebel Barabbas. However, it was expedient for Pilate to conduct public crucifixions in conjunction with Passover, when a large number of Jewish pilgrims would be in Jerusalem and thus able to witness what happened to those who defied the Roman state. Thus, he was likely holding Barabbas for execution at Passover, as well as the two criminals crucified alongside Jesus. He then substituted Jesus for Barabbas at the demand of the Jewish leaders and the crowd.

The Tosefta, a second-century collection of Jewish legal traditions, records that, when they had control of their land, Jewish leaders also practiced executions in conjunction with major feasts:

A rebellious and incorrigible son, a defiant elder, one who leads people astray to worship idols, one who leads a town to apostasy, a false prophet, and perjured witnesses—they do not kill them immediately. But they bring them up to the court in Jerusalem and keep them until the festival, and then they put them to death on the festival, as it is said, ‘And all the people shall hear and fear, and no more do presumptuously (Deut. 17:13),’ (Sanhedrin 11:7 cf. m. Sanh. 11:4-5; b. Sanh. 89a; Sifre on Deut. 17:3 [105a]).

The “festival” refers to any of the three Jewish pilgrimage feasts, when adult males were required to go to Jerusalem. These were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

The above Tosefta passage also provides a possible answer to the objection that the Jews wouldn’t have held a trial on the Passover feast. If the Jews would have executed Jesus on the Passover had the Romans not had control over their land, then surely they would not have seen a problem with holding a trial for him, which is something they could do even under Roman rule.

Similar to the above counter, some have argued that Friday can’t be the Passover because Mark says Joseph of Arimathea “bought a linen shroud” on that day (Mark 15:46) and Luke tells us the women “prepared spices and ointments” (Luke 23:56), activities both of which would have be forbidden by the Law’s requirements to do no work on the first day of the Passover festival (Exod. 12:16). There are a few things we can say in response.

First, the verb for “bought” is an aorist participle, and so it does not definitely indicate when the shroud was bought. The phrase can also be translated “having bought fine linen . . . [Joseph] wrapped him in the linen” (Young’s Literal Translation). It is possible that Mark does not intend for us to understand that Joseph bought the linen that day. It may have been fine linen that he had bought previously, perhaps for a different purpose.

And even if we suppose Joseph bought the linen that day, the Mishnah indicates that there were provisions for “buying” needed things on the Sabbath (e.g., jugs of wine, oil, and loaves of bread), whereby one left a cloak in trust and then paid for them later (Shabbat 23:1). If such provisions were made for those who required things on the Sabbath, then similar provisions could be made for buying things on Jewish feast days.

Second, when referring to the rest that must be observed on the first day of the seven-day Passover festival, Leviticus specifies that everyone must refrain from “laborious work” (Lev. 23:7). This is different from the prohibition of work on the Sabbath: “on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work” (Lev. 23:3; emphasis added).

The meaning of “laborious work” is debated, but many scholars have suggested that it is meant to allow certain types of work to be done on the first day of Passover—work that was not allowed on the Sabbath, when all work was prohibited.

As Bible scholar Brant Pitre argues in his book Jesus and the Last Supperthis distinction between “laborious work” and “no work” provides a plausible explanation as to why Joseph of Arimathea and the women viewed their activities as permissible on the Friday of Passover but not on the Sabbath.

Luke specifically tells us that the women prepared spices and ointments late Friday afternoon because “the Sabbath was beginning” and they didn’t want to violate the Sabbath rest (Luke 23:54, cf. 55-56).

Third, even if someone doesn’t accept the above distinction between “laborious work” and “no work,” the Law of Moses required Jesus’ immediate burial:

[I]f a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

The Torah expressly forbade leaving a body hanging overnight, so if the Romans crucified Jesus on Passover, he had to be taken down and hurriedly buried before night.

Furthermore, even though this passage speaks only of a condemned person, the rabbinical interpretation derives from it that “no corpse is to remain unburied overnight” (Sanh. 6.4, 46a, b; Maimonides, “Abel,” 4.8; emphasis added). According to the Tosefta, “To keep the dead overnight was not permitted in the city of Jerusalem” (Tosef., Neg. 6.2).

This is consistent with what Josephus reports concerning Jewish burial: “[T]he Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun” (The Jewish War 4.317).

Given this Jewish sense of urgency for burial, both in the first century and in later rabbinical tradition, Joseph of Arimathea and the women would have interpreted the circumstances of Jesus’ death as overriding the general rules governing work on the first day of Passover, that is if they were forbidden from all work.

Since we have plausible explanations as how to reconcile the view that Good Friday is Passover and the activities involving Jesus’ execution and burial, these counters don’t succeed in undermining the view that John and the Synoptics are working with the same chronology of Jesus’ passion.

The Timing of Jesus’ Trial


-Jesus about to be struck in the front of High Priest Annas, Jn 18:22, by José de Madrazo, 1803, Museo del Prado, Spain.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Karlo Broussard

“Every year during Holy Week, Christians focus on those last and most important moments of Jesus’s life: his passion and death.

But for some, these gospel narratives aren’t historically reliable because they apparently contradict each other in certain places. We’re going to consider two alleged contradictions here, both of which involve the timing of Jesus’ trial.

First, some say John contradicts the Synoptics with regard to the day on which Jesus was taken before Pilate. Mark, Matthew, and Luke all affirm that Jesus was brought to Pilate the day after the initial Passover meal on 15 Nisan, the night on which the lamb was eaten and the Haggadah (or Passover liturgy) was recited (Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7). But in John 18:28 it seems Jesus was brought before Pilate on the day before the initial Passover meal was eaten, for John says the Jews who led Jesus to Pilate didn’t enter the praetorium “so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” One possible way to resolve this apparent discrepancy is to say that the Jewish leaders were so preoccupied with the events of the previous evening that they put off celebrating the initial Passover meal until the following day.

There is a question, however, of whether Jesus’ arrest and the subsequent events would have begun early enough on Thursday evening to interfere with eating the initial Passover meal, which normally began soon after sundown.

But we know the chief priests and scribes were plotting to arrest and kill Jesus (Mark 14:1). It’s not beyond reason that their efforts would have been a catalyst to put off eating the initial Passover meal.

Also, Mark tells us that Judas led “a crowd . . . from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” (Mark 14:43). This suggests the Jewish leaders may have coordinated this crowd to go and fetch Jesus. The time such coordinating activity would have taken could very well have interfered with eating the initial Passover meal on Thursday after sundown.

The uncertainty of when the group would bring Jesus to the Jewish leaders could be another reason why they put off the Seder meal. It makes sense they wouldn’t want their celebration of the Passover to be interrupted.

And speaking of eating the Passover, the substantial amount of wine that’s required to be consumed at the Seder meal could also have motivated the Jewish leaders to put off the celebration. They would want to be of sound mind to question Jesus once he was brought to them.

There’s another possible way to reconcile John and the Synoptics. The phrase “eat the Passover” (John 18:28) likely refers to other sacrificial meals eaten with unleavened bread during the seven days of the Passover festival.

The Old Testament uses the word “Passover” (Greek, pascha) in a way that extends beyond the initial Seder meal, and applies it to various animal sacrifices offered during the Passover week. For example, Deuteronomy 16:2 speaks of the “Passover [pascha] sacrifice” to the Lord “from the flock or the herd,” which was to be eaten with unleavened bread for seven days during the Passover festival (v.3; see also Num. 28:16-25).

So, it’s possible John refers to those Passover sacrifices offered during the seven-day festival when he speaks of the Jewish leaders needing to “eat the Passover.”

Three lines of thought further support this interpretation.

First, the Last Supper in John’s Gospel is a Passover Meal. New Testament scholar Brant Pitre lists several details that reveal it to be such, all of which are common aspects of a Jewish Passover meal: the reclining posture of Jesus and his disciples (John 13:23-25); the dipping of the morsel (John 13:26-27); the giving to the poor during a festal meal (John 13:29); and the last-minute purchase of something during the feast (John 13:29-30).

As Pitre argues, since John identifies the Last Supper as the Passover meal that takes place on 15 Nisan, his reference to eating the “Passover” in John 18:28 doesn’t appear to be a reference to the initial Passover lamb, but the sacrifices eaten during the seven-day festival.

Second, according to Leviticus 7:19-20, these festal offerings (called “peace offerings”) eaten during the seven-day paschal festival were also subject to ritual purity laws. This would explain why the Jewish leaders were concerned about defilement.

Third, as New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg points out, the Jewish leaders’ concern for defilement in John 18:28 doesn’t jibe with the interpretation that John places the initial “Passover” meal on Friday evening:

The ceremonial uncleanness that the Jewish leaders would have incurred in entering Pilate’s Praetorium would have lasted only until sundown, so that they would not have been defiled in eating an evening meal on Friday.

Blomberg argues that uncleanness would have been an issue if they were thinking of the above-mentioned sacrificial offerings they needed to eat on Friday during the seven-day festival. It could also be due to the fact that they were unable to eat the meal during the preceding night and now needed to eat it before sunset.

The second supposed contradiction has to do with how the Synoptics report the time of day that Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin. According to both Mark (Mark 14:53-65) and Matthew (Matthew 26:57-68), the high priest questions Jesus Thursday night after Jesus is taken in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke, however, places the high priest’s interrogation of Jesus early the next morning (“when day came”—Luke 22:66).

The first thing we can say is that there’s no contradiction in these reports, only a difference.

Consider that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that Jesus was brought before the high priest late Thursday night at Caiaphas’s house (Luke 22:54; Matt. 26:57-58; Mark 14:53-54). All three also agree that, while there, Jesus was physically beaten and mocked. Matthew and Mark report Caiaphas questioning Jesus at that time, asking Jesus if He is the Christ.

Also, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that the high priest, scribes, and elders convened again early Friday morning to consult each other about putting Jesus to death (Mark 15:1; Matt. 27:1; Luke 22:66). The difference is that Matthew and Mark don’t mention an interrogation of Jesus at this morning convocation, whereas Luke does.

For there to be a contradiction, Matthew and/or Mark would have to deny that the high priest interrogated Jesus at the Friday morning convocation. But they don’t do that. They’re silent on the matter. Therefore, there’s no contradiction.

But the question remains: “Who’s right and who’s wrong?” Did Matthew and Mark get it right and Luke got it wrong? Or, vice versa?

The answer is likely that they’re all right because it’s reasonable to hold that the interrogation happened Thursday night and early Friday morning. Since Matthew and Mark left out the Friday morning interrogation, Luke includes it. And since Matthew and Mark included the Thursday night interrogation, Luke left it out.

That Caiaphas would question Jesus immediately when the crowd brought Jesus to Caiaphas’s house late Thursday night is reasonable, especially in light of the their intent to destroy Jesus. Why else would Caiaphas demand Jesus be brought to his house if he didn’t intend to question him in a preliminary manner, before the morning’s more formal gathering?

The claim that Caiaphas would have questioned Jesus again Friday morning is also reasonable because, as Blomberg argues, the Thursday night interrogation and charge of blasphemy weren’t legally binding. The Sanhedrin only had legal authority to sit in judgment for capital cases during the day (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:1). This leads Blomberg to conclude, “it is quite probable that they repeated their questions to make at least some kind of show of legality when daylight first dawned.”

Differences among the gospels might be a stumbling block for some, but they need not be. Differences don’t entail contradictions. And when such differences can be plausibly explained, we have all that much more reason to trust the reliability of the reports.”

Love & His Passion,
Matthew

Ash Wednesday – quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
“In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane, donec revertaris in terram de qua sumptus es: quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris.”
-Gen 3:19

‘To the woman also God said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee. And to Adam God said: Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.’ -Genesis 3:16-19


-sackcloth or gown of repentance, 18th century, formerly used in the parish church of West Calder, Midlothian, Scotland, National Museum of Scotland

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
-by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published 1838

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;—

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Love, blessed Lent,
Matthew

Feb 2 – Candlemas 2


-by Frederick George Holwick, Frederick George Holweck (1856–1927) was a German-American Roman Catholic parish priest and scholar, hagiographer and church historian.

“Today, February 2, Catholics mark the presentation of Christ in the temple. But not all Catholics are aware of the cultural origins of this feast.

According to the Mosaic law, a mother such as Mary who had given birth to a male child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover, she was to remain “in the blood of her purification”—i.e., outside the temple—for thirty-three days more. If the woman had borne a daughter, the time that she was excluded from the sanctuary was doubled.

When the time (forty or eighty days) was over, the mother was to “bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin”; if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; the priest prayed for her and so she was cleansed (see Leviticus 12:2-8).

Forty days after the birth of Christ, Mary complied with this precept of the law. She redeemed her first-born from the temple and was purified by the prayer of Simeon the just in the presence of Anna the prophetess (see Luke 2:22).

Early celebrations

No doubt this event, the first solemn introduction of Christ into the house of God, was celebrated in the early Church in Jerusalem. We find it attested to in the first half of the fourth century by the pilgrim of Bordeaux, Egeria or Silvia. The day—February 14—was solemnly kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection and and Mass that included a homily on Luke 2:22.

At that time, the feast had no proper name; it was simply called the fortieth day after Epiphany. This latter circumstance shows that, in Jerusalem, Epiphany was when the feast of Christ’s birth was celebrated. From Jerusalem the feast of the fortieth day spread over the entire Church and later was kept on February 2, since within the last twenty-five years of the fourth century the Roman feast of Christ’s nativity (December 25) was introduced.

The feast appears in the Gelasianum (manuscript tradition of the seventh century) under the title of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but the procession is not mentioned. Pope Sergius I (A.D. 687-701) introduced a procession for this day. The Gregorianum (tradition of the eighth century) does not speak of this procession, which fact shows that the procession of Sergius was the ordinary “station,” not the liturgical act of today.

The feast spread slowly in the West; it is not found in the Lectionary of Silos (A.D. 650) nor in the Calendar (A.D. 731-741) of Sainte-Genevieve of Paris. In the East it was celebrated as a feast of the Lord; in the West as a feast of Mary, although the Invitatorium (“Gaude et laetareJerusalemoccurrens Deo tuo”—”Rejoice and be glad, O Jerusalem, to meet thy God“), the antiphons, and responsories remind us of its original conception as a feast of the Lord.

The blessing of the candles did not enter into common use before the eleventh century. In the Middle Ages it had an octave in the larger number of dioceses; also today the religious orders whose special object is the veneration of the Mother of God (Carmelites, Servites) and many dioceses (Loreto, the Province of Siena, etc.) celebrate the octave.

The blessing of candles

According to the Roman Missal, the celebrant, in stole and cope of purple, standing at the epistle side of the altar, blesses the candles (which traditionally were of beeswax). Having sung or recited the five orations prescribed, he sprinkles and incenses the candles. Then he distributes them to the clergy and laity while the choir sings the canticle of Simeon, Nunc dimittis. The antiphon “Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuae Israel” (“A light to the revelation of the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel”) is repeated after every verse, according to the medieval custom of singing the antiphons.

During the procession that follows, participants carry lighted candles and the choir sings the antiphon “Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion” (“Adorn the bridal chamber, O Zion”) composed by St. John of Damascus, one of the few pieces for which the words and music have been borrowed by the Roman Church from the Greeks. The other antiphons are of Roman origin.

The solemn procession represents the entry of Christ, who is the light of the world, into the Temple of Jerusalem. The procession is always kept on February 2, even when the office and Mass of the feast is transferred to February 3.

Before the reform of the Latin liturgy by St. Pius V (1568), in the churches north and west of the Alps, this ceremony was more solemn. After the fifth oration a preface was sung. The “Adorna” was preceded by the antiphon “Ave Maria.”

While today such processions are held inside the church, during the Middle Ages the clergy left the church and visited the cemetery surrounding it. Upon the return of the procession, a priest, carrying an image of the Holy Child, met it at the door and entered the church with the clergy, who sang the canticle of Zachary, “Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel” (“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel”).

At the conclusion, entering the sanctuary, the choir sang the responsory “Gaude Maria Virgo” or the prose “Inviolata” or some other antiphon in honor of the Blessed Virgin.”


France, Belgium and Swiss Romandy
On the feast known as the “Chandeleur” in French-speaking countries, many Catholics will enjoy eating pancakes, or “crepes” today. This stems from the 5th-century Pope Gelasius I who had pancakes given to pilgrims visiting Rome. Some believe the tradition goes back further to the Vestal Virgins, who offered up cakes during the pre-Christian Roman feast of Lupercalia.


Tenerife
On this island off the Spanish coast locals celebrate the feast of The Virgin of Candelaria, or “La Morenita”. The city of Candelaria is the main site of celebrations, where locals venerate the Virgin as the Black Madonna.


Luxembourg
This small European country focuses on children during “Liichtmëssdag.” Youngsters will gather together with lanterns and go from door to door singing, with sweets or coins given for their musical efforts.


Philippines
In Silang, in the province of Cavite, the Virgin of Calendaria’s feast day is also celebrated at Candlemas. It is celebrated over a triduum, or three-day religious observance, with the feast day falling on February 2.


Peru
The patron saint of the city of Puno is the Virgin of the Candelaria. To honor her, the city holds a huge festival for a whole fortnight including the country’s different cultures. Thousands of musicians and dancers come together every year in what is the country’s largest festival.

Love,
Matthew