…"If My people who bear My name, humble themselves and pray and seek My presence and turn from their wicked ways, I Myself will hear from Heaven and forgive their sins…" (2 Chron. 7:14) – "You will see that in prayer you will find more knowledge, more light, more strength, more grace and virtue than you could ever achieve by reading many books, or by great studies. Never consider as wasted the time you spend in prayer. You will discover that in prayer God communicates to you the light, strength and grace you need…" (Sr Lucia dos Santos)
From the bottom of my heart I greet you, O holy (insert name) and wish you a happy feast day. I thank the Most High God for bestowing on you so many graces and for leading you so gloriously into heaven on this day.
For the increase of all your honour and joy, as well as for the special union of your heart with mine, I offer you the sweetest Heart of Jesus, together with all my works, intended on bringing about your greater glory and the greater glory of God.
Allow this bond of love and let me be faithfully recommended to you. I also especially recommend to you the dear souls of purgatory that you make them partakers of your joys today by releasing at least one of them through your intercession, to the greater honour of God on your dear feast day. Amen.
THE TRADITIONAL RULES OF THE BROWN SCAPULAR AS OUTLINED BY FR BUTLER
The rules prescribe, without any obligation or precept, that the members wear a little scapular, at least secretly, as the symbol of the Order, and that they recite every day the office of our Lady, or the office of the church; or, if they cannot read, seven times the Pater, Ave, and Gloria Patria, in lieu of the seven canonical hours; and lastly, that they abstain from flesh-meat on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, or, if this cannot be done, that they double for each of these days, the seven Paters, etc.
(From Fr Butler’s Lives of the Saints, “St Simon Stock”)
Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd. You know each of us and you call us by name to serve in faith. Help us respond generously to Your voice. Give courage and guidance to those You call to the priesthood and the diaconate, to religious life and lay ministry, so they may respond wholeheartedly and serve devotedly. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Glorious St Joseph, you are the pattern of all who work. Obtain for me, please, the grace to work conscientiously and put devotion to duty before my selfish inclinations.
Help me to labour in thankfulness and joy, for it is an honour to employ and to develop by my labour the gifts I have received from almighty God.
Grant that I may work in orderliness, peace, moderation and patience without shrinking from weariness and difficulties. I offer my fatigue and perplexities as reparation for sin.
I shall work, above all, with a pure intention and with detachment from self, having always before my eyes the hour of death and the accounting which I must then render of time ill-spent, of talents unemployed, of good undone, and of empty pride in success, which is so fatal to the world of God.
For Jesus through Mary, all in imitation of you, good St Joseph. This shall be my motto in life and in death. Amen.
There is surely no other moment in the year when the Church succeeds in producing the right impression so perfectly as she does in the service of Good Friday. The very strangeness of the rites, utterly unlike any others, gives us at once the feeling that this is a day different from any other day.
A SENSE OF DESOLATION, OF MOURNING
That little procession coming to the altar in dead silence, the prostration before the altar, then the lessons, the series of collects with their strange chant, all this produces a sense of desolation, of mourning, such as no other service in the year approaches. Today the most ignorant observer who enters a Catholic church can see that the Church mourns because her Lord is dead.
THE ASSOCIATION OF LONG CENTURIES
Then comes the worship of the cross, so full of meaning today, and the one gleam of light in the dark service, as we bring the Sanctissimum back to the altar, singing that superb hymn of the triumph of the cross. The gleam of light fades again; there follows the strange little Communion service that we call Mass of the Presanctified, then Vespers; again the altar is stripped, and now all the church is indeed desolate, waiting in gloom for the first light of the Easter sun next day. The wonderful thing about this service, expressing so perfectly the feeling of the day, is that it has all come together quite naturally. There was hardly any conscious symbolism in it at the beginning. Each element can be explained as the obvious thing to do under the circumstances. It is the association of long centuries that has filled it all with mystic meaning.
FILLED WITH MYSTIC MEANING
The service of Good Friday is made up of three separate functions – first, the lessons and collects; secondly, the worship of the cross; thirdly, the Mass of the Presanctified. Vespers and stripping of the altar follow, as on the day before.
EVERYTHING IN THE GOOD FRIDAY RITES IS EXCEEDINGLY OLD
The first function is the lessons and the collects. Everything in the Good Friday rites (except the worship of the cross) is exceedingly old. Here we have what has otherwise almost always disappeared from our rite – namely, three lessons, a prophecy from the Old Testament, an epistle and a gospel. Between them tracts are sung, as during the whole of Lent. The Gospel is the Passion according to St John, sung by three deacons, as on Palm Sunday.
THE OLDER FORM OF THE COLLECTS
Then come the collects. Here, again, Good Friday has preserved what was once an element of every Mass, a series of petitions for all kinds of people. Maybe, something like this was once said before the offertory act at every Mass, at that place where the priest still says: ‘Oremus,’ though no prayer now follows. [Adjustments have since been decreed so as to accord with the traditions of apostolic times and of the early Church.] Moreover, in the Good Friday prayers we see the older form of all collects. Now, on other days, the celebrant says: ‘Oremus,’ and then goes on at once to the collect. Once the form was longer, as we see it today. The priest not only says: ‘Let us pray,’ he tells the people what to pray for: ‘Let us pray, dearly beloved, for the holy Church of God, that God our Lord may give her peace, union, and may keep her throughout the whole world,’ and so on. Then the deacon, whose office it is always to control the people, tells them to kneel. they kneel in silent prayer for that object (once they certainly spent some moments in this silent prayer); then the subdeacon tells them to stand up again, and the priest gathers up all the petitions in a final prayer aloud, the collect. That is why the typical Roman collect is so short, and often so general in its petition. It is not so much the prayer itself, as a final clause asking God to receive the prayers already said silently. Here, again, we have a case where the ceremonies of Holy Week are invaluable, as showing the older form once common to all days. There is nothing that belongs specially to Good Friday in this chain of prayers for men of all sorts and conditions. We could say them equally well any day. But this relic of older times, with its petitions redolent of the circumstances of the early Church, bringing us memories almost from the catacombs, this too, by long association, has become part of the feeling of Good Friday.
THE COVERING OF THE STATUES AND PICTURES
Then follows the one element that is not very old, what our fathers called the ‘Creeping to the cross.’ In the East we know of a cerempny of reverence to the relic of the true cross, on Good Friday, from the time of Aetheria’s pilgrimage (Peregr. Silviae, xxxvii, 1-3.) No doubt this had some influence on the West too. But we can find a very simple explanation of the ceremony as we have it. Since the beginning of Lent originally, now since Passion Sunday, all pictures and statues in the church are covered. This is easily understood. These pictures and statues are a conspicuous ornament of the church. During the time of penance we deprive ourselves of them, for the same reason that we go without the music and the organ. (For the connection between covering the images and the old Lenten veil, see Thurston, pp. 99-105).
‘CREEPING TO THE CROSS’
But a crucifix is a statue. So crucifixes too are covered from Passion Sunday. It must, eventually, have seemed strange that, on the very day of the Crucifixion, people should not see the crucifix. Hence, on Good Friday they made this one exception and uncovered the crucifix. We can imagine the origin of the ceremony as the simplest thing possible. Someone went and uncovered the crosses in the church. Then, especially with the associations of this day, a ceremony, such as we have now, grew out of this. The cross is uncovered with honour, the people take this opportunity of paying to it symbolic reverence, reverence directed, of course, really to him who hung upon it. We know of a rite, very like the one we still have, since about the eighth century, first north of the Alps, then adopted at Rome (see Thurston, pp. 345-362).
In the Reproaches, [Impropreria, incl. verses fr. ‘Pange lingua’] sung at the same time, we have one of the few cases of Greek in our Roman rite. The verses ‘Agios o Theos,’ etc., are sung alternately in Greek and Latin. This is the famous Trisagion, a feature of the holy Liturgy in the Byzantine and other Eastern rites. Its introduction into ours seems to be a case of the considerable influence of the Byzantine rite in Gaul (St Germanus of Paris, +576, M.P.L. LXXII, col. 89, 91), whence it passed to Rome.
THE MASS OF THE PRESANCTIFIED
The Mass of the Presanctified, known to us on this day only, occurs frequently in Eastern rites. It is really only a little Communion service… On Good Friday the Sanctissimum is brought from the place where it has been kept since Maundy Thursday; the altar is incensed, and the priest goes on at once to what would follow after the Consecration, ‘the Pater noster’ and Communion. [Afterwards] the torchbearers extinguish their candles, and the service comes to an end with the same sense of desolation with which it began. Vespers are said as yesterday, the altar is stripped, the church is left empty and bare for the rest of the day of mourning. (Adrian Fortescue, from “The Holy Week Book”, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1913)
It was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that his hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as he had loved those who were his own in the world, he would love them with perfect love.
They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to him, and as he had come from God, he was going to God. So he got up from the table, removed his garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing.
When he came to Simon Peter, Simon asked him, “Why, Lord, do you want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with me.” Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus replied, ” Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray him; because of this he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
When Jesus had finished washing their feet, he put on his garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” You call me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.
V. The Gospel of the Lord. R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ own period of 40 days in the desert introduces us to the meaning of Lent, for the experience of Jesus can itself only be understood in relation to the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert. Exodus recounts the story of how, by a gratuitous act of love on God’s part, in fidelity to a promise he made long ago – a promise which would seen to be all empty by reason of the years and the suffering which have intervened – God allows Israel to escape from the slavery of Egypt to worship him in the wilderness. There the Lord offers them a covenant on Sinai. He feeds them miraculously and even overlooks their worshipping a golden calf to bring them at last to the Promised Land.
NOT SEEKING TO ISOLATE OURSELVES FROM GOD BY MATERIAL SECURITY
Now we have the key to understanding the temptations of Jesus: the temptation to worship the Devil, the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptations to power. These would all be temptations like those of his ancestors, to somehow want to be self-reliant, whereas the wilderness experience is about discovering the only true freedom: a total reliance on God expressed in worship of him, fidelity to his law and an essential love of poverty, of a depending on him for my how am I to live, not seeking once to isolate myself from him by material security.
THE ONLY TRUE FREEDOM: TOTAL RELIANCE ON GOD
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all to teach me reliance on God and solidarity with those who suffer. They are to make space in me for knowledge of my poverty and tame my ego a bit. Even a feeble Lent, a Lent of broken resolutions, might by God’s grace bring about a change in me if I am forced to admit how weak is my will, how shallow my religiosity, and how deep and real my need for God’s mercy. Remember that wonderful Chesterton paradox used to describe a saint: ‘A saint can be recognised by the fact that he knows himself to be a sinner.’
‘LOOK NOT ON OUR SINS, BUT ON THE FAITH OF YOUR CHURCH’
Just as Jesus needed to immerse himself the story of Israel, the story of God’s miraculous saving in history, so Lent is a time of identifying myself more fully with the Church, to experience in this time the miraculous effects the saving God wishes to bring about in my own history, particularly through the miraculous signs and wonders of the sacraments. This is not merely a personal journey, but also a collective one for the whole Church, a time to remember the prayer which precedes Communion which asks God to look ‘not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’. It is also a time to remember that however weak or sinful I may feel I am supported by the merits and intercession of the whole Church. Together as part of the Chosen People we will rejoice in the arrival at the Promised Land of Easter.
LOOK TO THE HORIZON AND JUST KEEP GOING
We will welcome the newly baptised at Easter and share in the joy of the salvation they have been promised. Exodus also reminds us that salvation has a history: it does not happen all at once. We are on a journey. The direction of travel is all-important, and the wonderful promise of the destination allows one to lift the eyes to the horizon and slog on, even when the going is touch and we lament what must be left behind.” – This is an excerpt of “Diary of a City Priest”, by Pastor Iuventus, (available from Amazon), published in the Catholic Herald, 14.3.14
Bless us, Father, as we enter into these days of the Lord’s Passion. Bless us with much prayer alone and with others. Bless us with answers to prayer, and the dedication to walk with Christ, and to be vigilant in his hour of need. Amen. (A.P.)
So, on Palm Sunday, with the chant of [‘Hosanna to the Son of David’] we seem to enter another world. All the usual course of Saints’ days is laid aside; no other thought may disturb the yearly remembrance of our Redemption. One would like to spend these days in something of the nature of a retreat. That is not possible for most people. But at least, we should, as far as we can, leave behind our usual cares, at the threshold of Palm Sunday, to take them up again when we come out of the great days after Low Sunday.