Category Archives: Easter

Adoration of the Cross

Good Friday is a tough day to live through. On one hand, it is a celebration of what Christ did for us, but on the other hand, what he had to endure was so traumatic, that celebration just doesn’t seem the right thing to do at all.

So we starve ourselves to help unify with His suffering if even just a little while the somberness of the cross brings us to a deep sense of melancholy. Yet it was this moment that defines us, not the resurrection.

This is easy to miss. The resurrection is not the prime moment, it is the proof that the prime moment was the real thing. It is because Jesus rose that we know that the cross was the real deal, and it is the proof that our sufferings will end in our own resurrection.

So today we adore the cross. We hold it up on high as we walk through our Lord’s passion. There is no Mass, because we have no Christ. How can a priest act In Persona Christi if our Lord is not there? Today it almost feels odd for the priest to even preside at the service, I almost feel it would be deeper to see him sitting in the pews with us, the power given to him by Christ stripped bare for the day, as Christ was stripped bare. (Don’t get any crazy ideas, the new rubrics demand that the priest preside at this service!)

Today we adore the cross.

I wanted to share a thought. We, as human beings, are enveloped in time. We live and breathe time like a fish breathes water. We simply cannot even imagine timelessness. When we think of eternal life, we tend to think in infinite life, a life that goes on forever. That is simply not so. Time is an invention of God’s for our benefit, it is not part of the true nature of reality. Eternity is being all places at once, not a stream of consciousness that reaches into infinity.

I know, it’s a little out there, but there is one aspect to this reality that is really important today. When God looks at the world, he does not see yesterday as separate from today. He sees them both at the same “time”. So from an eternal perspective, He sees you and I going about our lives and at the same time He sees Christ hanging on a tree in the desert.

The wood of the cross we hold up is not just a symbol. It is in a very real sense, truly the wood of the cross that Christ is hanging on in the eternal now of God. It may not be made of the same kind of wood, and it may not have the stains of His Blood, but His cross reaches out through eternity, and touches us where we stand.

“Behold, behold, the wood of the cross, on which is hung our salvation.
Oh come let us adore.”

This is why Christ was able to suffer for all, because as God He is here in all times and all places. He truly took the sin you committed yesterday and held them on the cross. He was and is there. The immensity of this act simply staggers the mind.

As you come up today to kiss, touch, or fall to your knees before His cross, know that He is hanging there now, looking down upon you. If you cannot make it too a service today, when you get home, I want you to pull that crucifix off the wall, and look closely at His wounds and thank Him for each one.

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by you holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Finally Lent is Over!

Well, it will be tonight anyways.

First things first, yesterday I talked about what I feel is an abuse. I want you to put that out of your head. Forget about it. Don’t let it mess with one of the most beautiful Masses of the year!

Tonight is Holy Thursday, and only the Eater Vigil can rival it in sheer mass of content. I am flat out amazed at how much happen in this one single, regular length Mass.

Let’s dive right in.

Holy Thursday has two main themes, first, the Last Supper, and second, Christ in the garden of Gethsemene.

The Lord’s Supper, the first Mass was a jam packed night. The night was already Holy. This was the Passover, the great feast of the Jewish people, that night which every man, woman, and child renewed the memory of their freedom from slavery. This was the night they relived the sacrifice of unblemished lambs that ransomed them from death. This night did not happen in a vacuum.

Christ knew the time had finally been fulfilled, and all that His life had worked towards was finally being set in motion. He himself had sent off Judas. He knew His time was running out, and he had to finish what He had come for. He must have felt rushed, and yet, time must have slowed to a standstill as he tried to take in every last moment with those who were his friends.

It could not just be a walk down memory lane though. Jesus had work to do, and he did not waste any time. He knew he could not leave us alone. So He gave us Himself that night. Before he was even hanging on the cross, His Blood was already in the Cup. He could feel His own body breaking as He broke the bread that had become Himself. What pain He must have felt, what anguish.

I have no doubt that the apostles had no idea what was going on. Here is Christ, already suffering, already broken, already giving Himself, and already those who loved Him did not recognize Him. It truly humbles me. I must admit, there are times when I do not receive Him with full attention. Times when I let my daily cares distract me from my Savior that has come to me in bread and wine. This night reminds me that I am not alone in this.

He could not leave us alone, so this night He gave the most humble gift anyone has ever given. He gave to His apostles power over Himself. This night, He created a new priesthood, wrapped in service. To show what service was truly like, he gave our predecessors two examples. First, He took the form of a slave (not a servant, a slave) and washed their feet. With this act He showed even greater humility by putting power over Himself in the hands of men who had the stain of original sin. They could now call Him down at will, changing bread and wine into His very Body and Blood.

These men, these lowly, foolish, arrogant, normal men now had the power to bring God Himself out of the high heavens. This humility is completely unthinkable. I am awed that in the time of His greatest duress, this is what Christ was capable of.

Tonight we will ring the bells with all our might in thanksgiving for this gift, but alas, all too soon they go quiet.

After Christ had given His greatest gift, fully spent, we relive His anguish. He gave everything He had, down to the last drop, and all we could do was yawn and fall asleep. Several times he asked us that we just stand with Him, just be with Him in His terror, and we were bored.

As you leave Mass tonight, you will leave in silence. You may be able to stay with Him a few hours in adoration, but sooner or later you will go home and go to bed. You have a big day tomorrow, after all. So do I.

As you fall asleep tonight, remember, we have not changed much in the last 2000 years. We still sleep, while He sweats blood.

The Washing of Feet

“He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist” John 13:4-5

This post is not being written so that you can run up to your clergy and tell them they are screwing everything up. I promise you, that is simply the last thing they need this week. In truth, I should have posted this a month ago so that you would have time to let your liturgy planning commission or whatever you have know about this teaching in as charitable a way as possible.

So many people are confused about the Mandatum, or as it is more commonly known, the Washing of Feet. We have seen it done in so many ways that we are rightly confused. A major part of our confusion is a misunderstanding of what is going on here.

Peter was a bit confused at first as well, and we can see that in his response in John’s Gospel.

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”” John 13:6-8

Yes, there is an image of service here. It is very apparant ond obvious. To be first in the Kingdom of God, you must become a slave to all. Yup, we seem to get that just fine, and I am oh so glad, because it is the primary message here, but there is another thing happening here that people often miss, and I’m not surprised. The Jewish people were a “People of the Book”, and knew their scripture far better than we know our own. So when Peter is confused as to what is going on, he too only has the view of the servant, but Jesus sets him straight right away.

“Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”” John 13:8

Woah! What?! Oh, I’m sorry Jesus, I get what you are talking about now! Sure, I’m all in!

“Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”” John 13:9

What is it that he just figured out? Something just totally changed his attitude, what was it?
Well, here we need to talk about washing feet. When does this happen in scripture? Are there any other references to this washing? Guess what! There is!

 

First, let’s hearken back to Genesis 18:4, do you remember the story of the angels coming to visit Abraham? He washed their feet! Lot does the same thing a bit later at 19:2 to the angels that visit him. This is the only other reference to washing of feet in the entire Hebrew Scriptures. But wait, there is more.
Check out Exodus 40:12-13 and Leviticus 8:5-7 and guess what you find? The washing of priests as part of their ordination. Yup, this is a Rite not only of service, but of priestly institution. This is why Peter wanted his hands and head washed as well! He was recognizing the priestly ordination rite!
Now I’m obviously not saying that when we wash feet on Holy Thursday that we are ordaining men, but we are celebrating the institution of the priesthood, and therefore it is simply appropriate that only men have their feet washed. And if your parish washes more than just feet, this should also make you raise an eyebrow, after all,

“Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.”” John13:10

Yes the Mandatum is primarily about charity. It is the idea of service that is front and foremost. So please, be charitable when you are bringing this up to your friends and clergy!

Butit is also about linking the Old Covenant priesthood to the priesthood of the New Covenant. It is about tying that priesthood to the angels, about making it divine. It’s not about service alone.

So yes, the Church is actually serious when it says in it’s rubrics,

“Depending on pastoral circumstance, the washing of feet follows the homily. The men who have been chosen (viri selecti) are led by the ministers to chairs prepared at a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers he pours water over each one’s feet and dries them.”

Just so you know, the United States Bishops spoke about this in 1987, and I wanted you to read it so that you knew that while the practice is suspect in my opinion, the adopted practice of washing both men and women’s feet is not necessarily illicit.

“….Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the “Teacher and Lord” who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service.
While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (“viri selecti”), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not to be served,” that all members of the Church must serve one another in love….” — Regarding the phrase “viri selecti”, the Chairman of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy

Spy Wednesday

Tomorrow we celebrate betrayal. Sounds funny doesn’t it, to “celebrate” betrayal?

Tomorrow we remember Judas going out to the chief priests to sell out Jesus.

Guess what? All the apostles sold Him out. You and I have also sold Him out. There is so much betrayal here that there is no way I could put it all down in one post.

The apostles who just celebrated the first Mass with our Lord all bailed on Him.

“Surely not I Lord?”

Peter who seemed so faithful and committed will deny he even knows Jesus at the threat of a lowly servant.

You and I deny Him again and again every time we sin.

Betrayal.

I want to take a look at two betrayals here today though, and contrast them, the betrayal of Peter vs the betrayal of Judas. They both screwed up. They both made a very serious mistake. Maybe Judas was upset because Jesus was not the Messiah he had hoped for, one that would kick out the Romans and bring Israel to the forefront of nations, maybe he was in it for the cash, I just don’t know. I think at the heart of the matter was that Judas just wanted something different from Jesus.

You and I do this all the time. You and I pray not with thanksgiving, but with petition. Lord, if you could just take care of my weight / debt / mother in law then everything will be just right, and I can go on and be holy. We know what Jesus should do, and gosh darnit, we are going to tell Him. This is betrayal.

Peter said he loved Jesus. Said he would die for Him. Said they could rip off his arms and he wouldn’t budge, only to run away crying because he couldn’t tell a little girl the truth. How many times have you denied being a Christian? How many times have you not made the sign of the cross before eating because you were at a business lunch? How many times have you kept silent because you knew your friend might be insulted that you think abortion is evil?

We are both Judas and Peter. I pray for them both. There is however a great difference, so what is it?

I want you to stop right here. Really think, what is the difference? Why is Peter a big capital lettered Saint, and Judas not? Stop, and figure it out.

Yes, Peter sinned, but he got back up again. He knew he could not do right, and that the Lord would have to teach him. I have no doubt that he cringed every time he heard a chicken for the rest of his life, but that did not deter him. He continued to move forward in hope that Jesus could fix his deficiencies.

Judas gave in to despair. Judas thought he was so bad that there was no saving him, and hung himself.

Something to think about.

Another thing to think about, who was the first person to leave Mass early?

Just saying, maybe that last hymn is worth listening to.

Rite of the Turkey Basters

You think I’m kidding around right? Rite of the Turkey Basters? What the heck is that?

Well, that’s not it’s official name, but there is a special mass that the laity rarely get to attend that happens this week, usually on Thursday morning, but it often moves around. It is the Chrism Mass.

Now it’s not that the laity aren’t invited, it’s just that it is usually inconvenient because it is held at the cathedral. I don’t know about you, but most mornings, I’m personally not excited to drive 6 hours to my cathedral for Mass, how about you? It is however, a very important Mass, and very much tied to Holy Week.

Now as I said, it’s proper place is Holy Thursday Morning. So as we think about the Mass and walk through it, we need to keep it in the context of Holy Thursday, even if it is celebrated on a different day. Why? Because The Chrism Mass is not about Chrism.

I know, this is just not making any sense, but hang on there.

The Chrism Mass is a lot like Midnight Mass at Christmas time in that it has it’s name because of an incidental thing that happens at this Mass. We don’t celebrate “midnight” at Midnight Mass, we celebrate the birth of our savior. It just happens at midnight, so we call it Midnight Mass. Same thing here. This is the Mass where the Holy Oils are blessed, so we call it the Chrism Mass. (Chrism is one of the oils.)

What is really going on here is something much bigger. This is the Mass of unity. This is the Mass where every priest in the diocese once again rededicates himself to Christ through obedience to his bishop. This is the Mass where the priest is empowered by their bishop to go out and serve you. We must remember that all the gifts a priest is given are given through their shepherd, this Mass is where those gifts are dispersed. This is why the Mass must be understood in the context of Holy Thursday, as Holy Thursday is the day we celebrate the institution of the priesthood. (As a side note, the footwashing thing is also tied to the priesthood, but I’ll get to that another day.)

This is the Mass that ties us to our apostle. How cool is that? It is just not enough to get a phone call and have a piece of paper hanging on the wall telling us we are united with the greater Church. We have to have real unity, and that unity is celebrated at this Mass.

This is also the Chrism Mass though, so we should talk about oils. All of the oils we used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Healing of the Sick, and Holy Orders must be blessed by the bishop. They are also only good for one year. (Unity theme again!) So every year, the bishop blesses the oils at the Chrism Mass, and all the priests take it back home to their parishes with them. Pretty cool huh?!

There is one rite we are missing here. When the bishop blesses the oils, they are in three huge vats, so they have to be separated before the priests can take their oils back home.

So immediately after the Mass begins the Rite of the Turkey Basters, where all the helpers gather together to distribute the oils, usually while trading jokes and funny stories from their parishes. So imagine a bunch of really oily people laughing and in a rush to get home, and you will have the right picture of the day. Tons of fun, and an incredible Mass to attend if you ever have the opportunity.