Sunday, April 08, 2018

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

Today is known on the Christian calendar by at least six names.

In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes were removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. It is also known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or more colloquially as “Low Sunday.” It has also been popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”)

In the churches of the East, it is known as “Thomas Sunday” as the same gospel is read as in the West, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope Saint John Paul II, it is also known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I thought Confession did that already. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for an explanation.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in a 2010 issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there. Not to mention that this devotion is mandated in its timing, on the basis of a private revelation, which in and of itself is not binding on the faithful.

Such remembrances need to be harmonized with the liturgical season if they are to serve the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, beginning with the incarnation, and on into the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, followed by his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth through the work of the Holy Spirit. That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Octave of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.

This response contradicts itself. It claims that the timing of the Novena doesn't "supersede" the Triduum, and then goes on to ignore its culmination. That makes no sense. Superseding is exactly what it does.

For nearly two millennia, the Easter season, including the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Under present canon law, the traditional requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave, such is the magnitude of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the novena is devoted to chanting thus: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ -- the whole nine yards. But that comparison ends in the context of the liturgical seasons, the purpose of which is to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of salvation history at the liturgical year progresses. There is sufficient reason to doubt that the emphasis made by this novena, given its timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. At the same time, She has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67).

While accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter of the Sunday commemoration itself, we may long for a further study of this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year. Even if the novena is not "liturgy" in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the Resurrection misses the big picture.

“We have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast.”

... for eight days, if not forty, and if you don't mind.

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To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at DivineMercySunday.com, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at TheDivineMercy.org. For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at EWTN.com.
 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise
        with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.


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An Easter Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Awake, O Sleeper!

Something strange is happening -- there is a silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.

At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

“For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”


From a homily of St Epiphanius of Cyprus
 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.


From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour." From sext to none. From noon until three in the afternoon. Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we were told to be quieter than usual. Thus did we mark the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom with His bride.

PHOTO: Gail Deibler Finke

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom of more than a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, overlooking the central city from the east, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the river, all the way to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the War Between The States, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace while climbing the steps to its entrance.

Even today, the tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.

Finally, our meditation for Good Friday is an instrumental photo montage with the imagery of the cross by Terri Rogers.
 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Maundy Thursday

It was on a
    maundy Thursday,
        and all in the morning,
They planted
    a crown of thorns
        on our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus
    we'll call him by name.


Today begins the Sacred Triduum. I usually take the day off along with Friday, but there is much to be done at the office of late. I am off tomorrow for Good Friday. Working on that day is simply not an option for me.

The above notwithstanding, for a Catholic, as much as some try to deny it, the next three days are not business as usual. The whole of human history -- before, during, after -- turns on the events we remember this week.

Our meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit, and is produced by Bob Carlton.
 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus,
    we'll call him by name.


This day in Holy Week is known among Western Christians by the above title (or among Christians in the East, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη, in case you were wondering), as tradition commemorates this day for when Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Our Lord, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).

Was that a lot of money in those days?

The term in the original language, "arguria," simply means "silver coins." Historians disagree as to what form of currency is described. They could have been either staters from Antioch, tetradrachms from Ptolemy, or shekels from Tyre. (Nothing about Greek drachmas, which were either bronze, copper, or iron. Just so we're clear on that.)

Closer to the present, it is also when we here at man with black hat (more or less) interrupt our usual blogcasting in order to focus on the Main Event for the several days that follow. Stay tuned ...
 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Random Thoughts from the Desert

“Invocabit me, et ego exaudiam cum: eripiam cum, et glorificabo cum: longitude die rum adimplebo cum.”

“He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I will deliver him, and I will glorify him: I will fill him with length of days.”

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This past Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent, we heard the Gospel account of Our Lord heading out into the desert for forty days. The traditional form of the Mass for that day begins with the Introit citing a verse from Psalm 90(91), and the Tract between the readings elaborates upon the same. In its verses, we are reminded to trust in God.

During the First World War, the American soldiers of the 91st Infantry Brigade were given the text of this Psalm by their commander to recite before going into battle. They fought at Chateau Thierry, at Belle Wood, at the Argonne. Other units suffered casualties of up to ninety percent, but they suffered not one!

There are other accounts of the power of this Psalm, and other conflicts where it was used; by the British at Dunkirk during the Second World War, and by the Allied forces in Korea. Peggy Joyce Ruth writes:

Note that this verse in Psalm 91:4 declares God's faithfulness to us as both a shield and a bulwark in a double-layered analogy. The passage uses two military symbols of fortification and protection. God is our bulwark, our tower -- our wall of protection in a collective sense -- and He is also our shield -- a very individualized defense. This verse indicates double protection.

Man, by his very nature, is not a solitary creature. He is nurtured by the presence, the company of others. Left alone in solitude for too long, he will either prepare himself to be tormented by his own personal demons, or he will give in to their exploiting his weaknesses.

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I remember the years after my divorce, a period of roughly a decade (from about 1993 to 2003) that I have always referred to, as would Dorothy Day in her biography, as "The Long Loneliness." My day job was a tense environment in those days, as the old status quo in a dysfunctional government agency resisted the challenge of a younger and racially diverse generation of middle managers. The one who led our staff was a decorated war veteran, with a penchant for alcohol as self-medication, and behavior towards employees that would be most aptly considered sadist and sociopathic. He could be very charming, especially toward women. Most alcoholics learn to pull that off. It's how they get by.

I'm afraid I got the worst of it. I would be ridiculed throughout the day, every day. The staff, moral weaklings that all of them were, would be cowed into joining him. I would be handed extra assignments a few days before a vacation. I was physically ill from a gastrointestinal condition for several years during that time. At its zenith, I was prescribed Seroquel, a potent antipsychotic medication. In small doses, it treats those with the hiccups; in larger ones, those who hear voices. I was somewhere in between.

On a good day, this psychopath never spoke to me at all. For that matter, neither did anyone else. Except for matters strictly professional, I would go for days, for weeks, maybe longer, without speaking to anyone. Then I would go home to an empty basement studio apartment, with no local friends to call (or at least none who returned calls). When I wasn't going home to Cincinnati six times a year, I would call my friends from there every night. I'd run up two hundred dollars in long distance calls, in the days before direct dialing with cell phones was anywhere near as common as today.

There was no recourse. The employees union could not accept a change to its narrative, that a white employee was subject to mistreatment by a black supervisor. They would often take his side in what was obviously against regulations in the federal workplace. Upper management was indifferent to the point of being clueless, such was the level of incompetence at the time.

Eventually, the nightmare ended. The man became enough of an embarrassment to other managers -- those poseurs were even more afraid of him than I was -- and I saw an opportunity to call them all on it. (The 25th of November, 1998. I have marked the day, and remember it to this day.) The man was removed from his position over our staff, and his fellows wasted no time pretending it never happened. Life became easier after that, both on the job and at home. I found a way off that island of isolation, and I was able to make a home, to bloom where I was planted, albeit five hundred miles from the place I once called home. It took that long and took that trial, the facing of demons, the wrestling with ghosts from the past.

I eventually got off Seroquel, but there are other medications I have to take, possibly for the rest of my life.

“Then the Devil left Him: and behold angels came, and ministered to Him.” (Matt:4:11)

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Christ Himself was surely so clad in armor, as he fled to the desert to be tempted by the Evil One. Even as He was the Son of God, He possessed a human nature, one that bore witness to us in its being tested.

I could write a book about that episode in my career. Someday it will be written, but not at present. The demons that all of us face, even as "no man is an island," we must face them alone, but not really alone. The One who faced them for us has shown us how. He trusted in the Father, and so must we. That bulwark, that tower, that shield, one that is there all along.
 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

“C’mon, take me to the Mardi Gras ...”

“... where the people sing and play / Where the dancing is elite / And there's music in the street / Both night and day.”

There goes "Rhymin' Simon," in a live recording of his 1973 hit on Columbia Records. Meanwhile, this being the last day of merriment before the Great Fast (aka Lent), I am reminded of another Mardi Gras from so many years ago ...

Babes in Boyland

... and so it goes.