"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


On Palm Sunday, the Church celebrates the main theme of Holy Week:: Christ enters Jerusalem to take up his messianic throne and thus inaugurate the kingdom.  The people greet him, waving branches, while the children call out, "Hosanna!" which is an invocation, calling on God to support him in his messianic role.  The people are greeting him with the ceremonial of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, recognising him as Messiah.

Little do the people know that God's kingdom is utterly different from the Roman Empire or Herod's kingdom, totally different from all other kingdoms in this world, built on a completely new set of principles.

Kingdoms of this world are supported by force and, if necesary, defended with violence.   The kingdom of God is supported by an even greater force, the one that created the universe, God's kenotic, self-emptying love.  In order to function, it needs people who will heroically place themselves at God's disposition, at whatever the cost to themselves, so that God's power can flow through them.  Central to the establishment of this kingdom is Christ's own vocation, whose way is the way of obedience to his Father, even under the most extreme circumstances This central theme is expressed in the words of St Paul:
 As Pope Francis tells us, the only authority in the Church is that of service, and authority is measured by how many feet a person can wash; and the only power in the Church is the power of the Cross.  The Cross is Christ's royal throne: the very act of total self-surrender is the very act by which he assumes power over the new heaven and the new earth which already began to exist in Our Lady and St John at the foot of the Cross.

The new law is that of love, as the Maundy Thursday liturgy  teaches us:
The very first service of Maundy Thursday is the Mass for the blessing of the Chrism and other oils; and it is also the Mass at which the bishop and priests celebrate their common priesthood, and where the diocese, more than any other time, manifests itself as a single body.  As St Ignatius of Antioch tells us, across the centuries, from primitive Christianity:
``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be; even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D
The triduum is, above all, the Catholic Church being itself across the ages: we all celebrate because we have been made one with the whole body of Christ. That is why there used to be so many bitter arguments on the date of Easter: all felt that they should be celebrating the triduum at the same time.  Unfortunately, we have so far failed to agree on a single date.  Nevertheless, the centre of all celebrations of the Triduum are the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ which have become, for all of us, the only Way to heaven with Christ.  For this reason, the Triduum opens with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday, and ends with the Easter Mass of the Easter Vigil.  At every Mass, in so far as we make Christ's sacrifice our own, we enter into the reality in which heaven and earth are dimensions of the same creation, and God is All in all.

Maundy Thursday
The Last Supper, by Jaume Serra
 Nos autem gloriae (Introit)

This day, Maundy Thursday (also "Holy Thursday" or "Shire Thursday"1) commemorates Christ's Last Supper and the initiation of the Eucharist. Its name of "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning "command." This stems from Christ's words in John 13:34, "A new commandment I give unto you." It is the first of the three days known as the "Triduum," and after the Vigil tonight, and until the Vigil of Easter, a more profoundly somber attitude prevails (most especially during the hours between Noon and 3:00 PM on Good Friday). Raucous amusements should be set aside... 

The Last Supper took place in "the upper room" of the house believed to have been owned by John Mark and his mother, Mary (Acts 12:12). This room, also the site of the Pentecost, is known as the "Coenaculum" or the "Cenacle" and is referred to as "Holy and glorious Sion, mother of all churches" in St. James' Liturgy. At the site of this place -- our first Christian church -- a basilica was built in the 4th century. It was destroyed by Muslims and later re-built by the Crusaders. Underneath the place is the tomb of David. 

After the Supper, He went outside the Old City of Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley, and came to the Garden of Gethsemani, a place whose name means "Olive Press," and where olives still grow today. There He suffered in three ineffable ways: He knew exactly what would befall Him physically and mentally -- every stroke, every thorn in the crown He would wear, every labored breath He would try to take while hanging on the Cross, the pain in each glance at His mother; He knew that He was taking on all the sins of the world -- all the sins that had ever been or ever will be committed; and, finally, He knew that, for some people, this Sacrifice would not be fruitful because they would reject Him. Here He was let down by His Apostles when they fell asleep instead of keeping watch, here is where He was further betrayed by Judas with a kiss, and where He was siezed by "a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the chief Priests and the ancients of the people" and taken before Caiphas, the high priest, where he was accused of blasphemy, beaten, spat upon, and prepared to be taken to Pontius Pilate tomorrow morning. 

As for today's liturgies, in the morning, the local Bishop will offer a special Chrism Mass during which blesses the oils used in Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Unction, and the consecration of Altars and churches.

At the evening Mass, after the bells ring during the Gloria, they are rung no more until the Easter Vigil (a wooden clapper called a "crotalus" is used insead). Parents explain this to their children by saying that the all the bells fly to Rome after the Gloria of the Mass on Maundy Thursday to visit the Popes. Children are told that the bells sleep on the roof of St. Peter's Basilica, and, bringing Easter eggs with them, start their flight home at the Gloria at the Easter Vigil, when when they peal wildly. 

Then comes the Washing of the Feet after the homily, a rite performed by Christ upon His disciples to prepare them for the priesthood and the marriage banquet they will offer, and which is rooted in the Old Testament practice of foot-washing in preparation for the marital embrace (II Kings 11:8-11, Canticles 5:3) and in the ritual ablutions performed by the High Priest of the Old Covenant (contrast Leviticus 16:23-24 with John 13:3-5). The priest girds himself with a cloth and washes the feet of 12 men he's chosen to represent the Apostles for the ceremony. 

The rest of the Mass after the Washing of the Feet has a special form, unlike all other Masses. After the Mass, the priest takes off his chasuble and vests in a white cope. He returns to the Altar, incenses the Sacred Hosts in the ciborium, and, preceded by the Crucifer and torchbearers, carries the Ciborium to the "Altar of Repose," also called the "Holy Sepulchre," where it will remain "entombed" until the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday. 

Then there follows the Stripping of the Altars, during which everything is removed as Antiphons and Psalms are recited. All the glorious symbols of Christ's Presence are removed to give us the sense of His entering most fully into His Passion. Christ enters the Garden of Gethsemani; His arrest is imminent. Fortescue's "Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described" tells us: "From now till Saturday no lamps in the church are lit. No bells are rung. Holy Water should be removed from all stoups and thrown into the sacrarium. A small quantity is kept for blessing the fire on Holy Saturday or for a sick call." The joyful signs of His Presence won't return until Easter begins with the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening.

And, of course, tomorrow's Matins and Lauds may be read as part of the "tenebrae service" (see Spy Wednesday).

an excerpt from:
Washing For All. The Holy Thursday of Francis
The washing of feet now overshadows the Mass of the last supper. The pope has admitted women to the ceremony, as long as they belong to the Church. But he is pushing even farther, and is also washing the feet of Muslims 

by Sandro Magister

ROME, March 22, 2016 – As a reformer, Pope Francis also distinguishes himself in the liturgical field. And the day after tomorrow, on Holy Thursday, in churches all over the world there will be plain for all to see the innovation that he has introduced in the ceremony of the washing of feet, to which women too are now admitted.

As the theatre of the ceremony he will celebrate, this time Francis has chosen a refugee center, while in past years he has gone to a juvenile detention center, in 2013, to a hospice for the disabled, in 2014, and last year to a big prison. Always, therefore, to places of suffering humanity.

The day after tomorrow [today] will therefore be the first Holy Thursday following the reform. But Jorge Mario Bergoglio has put it into practice since the first year of his pontificate, even then washing the feet of women too.

Moreover, the pope has gone beyond what is allowed by his own reform, washing the feet - more than once - of persons not belonging to the Church.

But first things first. Francis enunciated the general criterion from which he draws his inspiration for innovating in the liturgical field in the 2013 agenda-setting interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica” and twelve other magazines of the Society of Jesus:

“Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture. . . Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation.”

The conception of the liturgy as a pedagogical act dictated by current events is an impoverishment that has understandably disconcerted the experts on this subject. Including Cardinal Robert Sarah, who was nonetheless promoted by Francis in 2014 as prefect of the Vatican congregation for divine worship.


"The washing of feet now overshadows the Mass of the last supper."
The above sentence is utter rubbish.  Of course, it is the most newsworthy element in the Mass because the pope is using the Washing of Feet as a prophetic gesture to express his conviction that the Church must reach out to the marginalised; but there is nothing in the ceremony to "overshadow the Mass  of the last supper."   On the contrary, it emphasizes the truth that, in the Last Supper, Christ manifested the true significance of his death as a complete gift of himself to the Father and to humankind, and that we who share in his chalice must love with the same love, with a love that crosses every barrier.  The gesture adds to the meaning of the ceremony commemorating Christ washing his disciples feet: it doesn't replace it, nor does it make the gesture a liturgical norm.

It must be remembered that Cardinal Sarah is Pope Francis' appointment as head of liturgy; and he was told by Pope Francis to continue with Pope Benedict's "reform of the reform".  When Cardinal Sarah produces the next version of the Misa Normativa, it will be as much Francis' policy as Cardinal Sarah's.  Pope Francis has said, several times, that our horizontal relationships are formed out of our common vertical experience of God in Christ.  In this, he and Pope Benedict are in complete agreement; but he has the pastoral experience as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and appreciates the misa normativa as we now have it.  He does not look for Catholic truth in one school of thought, but in the "dialogue in love" between us all. This was evident in the Synods. Hence, Cardinal Sarah is as important to his project as anyone else.

"The conception of the liturgy as a pedagogical act dictated by current events is an impoverishment that has understandably disconcerted the experts on this subject."

It certainly would be an impoverishement if that were the case  There is nothing in Pope Francis' behaviour to suggest that this is his understanding of liturgy, and much to suggest otherwise.  Putting Cardinal Sarah in charge of liturgical reform is a good example.  I believe Sandro Magister's fundamental mistake is that he interprets Francis' choices as "either - or" - if he chooses one option, he is rejecting the other.    I don't think the evidence points in this direction.  He is in favour of "both...and."  He believes in a "listening church" in which everybody is open to everyone else, and where "conservatives" and "progressives" all feel at home.


Maundy Thursday 2016

“It was before the festival of Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his own in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.”

St John begins his account of the Passion, a narrative that will take up a third of his gospel, with the washing of the disciples’ feet. It is a living parable in which Jesus demonstrates the true meaning of his life. Like all parables, it invites us to contemplate the mystery of Christ and what that means for us. The washing of the feet turns our understanding of God upside down, for the Master becomes a slave, showing his disciples that this is the only way in which they can follow him and become what God wants them to be. “If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me,” Jesus says to Peter. Let us take a closer look.

The first thing we notice is the presence of Judas at table with Jesus and the others. The devil has already put it into his mind to betray Jesus, but he is still there with the disciples, and Jesus will wash his feet too. Jesus does not judge us, but bestows his gifts lavishly on us all, even if we have it in mind to betray him. Unfortunately, Judas learns nothing from the humility of Jesus. Filled with fear and despair, he will commit suicide, unable to accept that Jesus still loves him and longs to forgive and save him.

Then Jesus gets up from the table, removes his outer garment, wraps a towel round his waist, pours water into a basin and begins to wash his disciples’ feet. What Jesus did that night was something quite extraordinary, in fact, revolutionary. It was no ordinary washing of feet, certainly not the usual ritual offered to travellers and guests even today in many cultures and societies. Now a Jewish servant might wash the feet of his master and of his master’s family and guests. It’s a very intimate thing to do. Who washes your feet? Whose feet do you wash? Only a Roman slave would take off his outer garment and set about washing people’s feet in his tunic, a sort of undershirt: it wasn’t usual in a Jewish household. Moreover, Jesus himself pours water into the bowl for the washing, and that was woman’s work. His actions turn the world on its head. The disciples had never really understood what he was telling them about himself: would tonight be any different?

When he comes to Peter, there’s bound to be trouble. Peter is a proud, outspoken man, never afraid to confront and question Jesus. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” The English translation is rather weak and doesn’t convey the power of the Greek. “What? YOU wash MY feet? Are you out of your mind?” St John Chrysostom tells us that the words express Peter’s love, but that it’s a defective love. It lacks the humility illustrated in what Jesus is doing. In Peter’s response we see pride and self-will, the very causes of sin, for which only the Cross can atone. Peter still has the “get-thee-behind-me-Satan” syndrome and he still doesn’t understand.

Jesus knows that what he’s doing is bewildering, almost scandalous, for the disciples. “At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Only after the Resurrection will they begin to understand that in the Church, the Body of Christ, there can be no room for those who refuse to be cleansed by his atoning death and washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, for it is into his death that we are baptised. Likewise, only afterwards will they come to understand that communion with Christ depends on celebrating and entering into the great Sacrament of love, the Eucharistic sacrifice, with all its practical implications of mercy and charity.

Yet, even now, as their understanding fails them, Jesus tells them that their love, like his, must go beyond all limits. Once he had taught them to forgive, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Now he says, “If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.” Because they have been redeemed by the death of the Servant Son of God, they must show their gratitude in service to others, a service of love and sacrifice. We are called in Christ to be ministers of the love of God in all patience and humility. Only through love can we die with Christ, so as to rise and live with him, and there can be no true love without taking up the Cross of Jesus.

May the good Lord grant us all the grace to follow his example in loving others, without exception, just as he has loved us. Amen

As to customs, many families have a practice of visiting the tabernacles of three or seven nearby churches after the Mass on this day as a sort of "mini-pilgrimage" (any nearby Catholic churches will do). Some families visit the churches directly after the evening Mass; others go home and wake up in the middle of the night to make the visits (though since churches are rarely open all night these days, this would be hard to do). The spirit of the visits to the churches is keeping vigil in the Garden of Gethsemani while Jesus prayed before His arrest. Matthew 26:36 "Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray."

In Germany, Maundy Thursday is known as "Green Thursday" (Grundonnerstag), and the traditional foods are green vegetables and green salad, especially a spinach salad. In Latin countries, Jordan almonds ("confetti") are eaten today and also throughout Eastertide.

Back when Kings and Queens of England were Catholic, they, too, would wash the feet of 12 subjects, seeing the footwashing rite also as an example of service and humility. They would also give money to the poor on this day, a practice is said to have begun with St. Augustine of Canterbury in A.D. 597, and performed by Kings since Edward II. Now the footwashing isn't done (it was given up in the 18th c.), but a special coin called "Maundy Money" is minted and given to the selected elderly of a representative town. 

H.M. the Queen & Prince Philip on Maundy Thursday 2015 at York Minster

On this day, one may gain a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, by reciting the Tantum Ergo (Down in Adoration Falling).

Footnotes:1 The name "Shire Thursday" is explained in "Festival" printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1511: "Yf a man aske why Shere Thursday is called so, ye may saye that in Holy Churche it is called (Cena Domini) our Lordes Souper daye; for that day he souped with this Discyples openly; and after souper he gave them his flesshe and his blode to ete and drynke. It is also in Englysshe called Sher Thursdaye, for in olde faders dayes the people wold that daye sher there heedes, and clyppe theyr berdes, and poll theyr heedes, and so make them honest ayenst Ester Day."  

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