Holy Week: Waiting in the Wings
Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended, * That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended? * By foes derided, by Thine own rejected, * O most afflicted.
Holy Week at the parish of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, is an awesome thing. To those Catholics of traditional sensibilities who rail and rant about the death of the “reform of the reform” in the official worship of the Roman church, I say, let them spend the rest of the week here. Even if the "ordinary form" is used, the altar is versus orientem ("facing East"), as the priest, his attendants, and the faithful, all turn toward the Lord in the same direction, with the traditional Latin and the vernacular English co-existing peacefully.
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee? * Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee. * ’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee! * I crucified Thee.
The Sacred Triduum is preceded by the service of Tenebrae on Wednesday evening. Two hundred people join the clergy, seminarians, and altar servers in witnessing the dimming of the lights, to await the Light of the World in the three days that follow. Imagine the sight of dozens of altar servers processing in, two by two. It begins with the crucifer and candle-bearers, followed by the very young, appearing quite cherubic in their surplices and black cassocks.
Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered; * The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered; * For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth, * God intercedeth.
The older servers follow in their maroon cassocks and pleated surplices. Then come the seminarians and deacons of the parish. Finally, the master of ceremonies leads the parish priests, as the procession of nearly one hundred clerics and laics converge upon the Holy of Holies. It is from there that the time of darkness and lamentation begins, followed by the hearing of confessions.
For me, kind Jesus, was Thy incarnation, * Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life’s oblation; * Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion, * For my salvation.
Tomorrow night is the “Cena Domini” -- the Mass of the Lord's Supper. The original meal shared by the disciples, the sacrificial offering that took place in the twenty-four hours that followed, all will be re-presented in the sight of Christ's faithful. The pastor will remove his outer priestly vestments, put on an apron, and wash the feet of twelve young altar servers. “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” For one night of the year, the priest will serve the least of those young lads who serve him at the altar of God.
Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee, * I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee, * Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving, * Not my deserving.