In Laetitia

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Saturday of Pascha

The Lord brought forth His people with joy, alleluia:
and His chosen ones with gladness, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Give glory to the lord, and call upon His name:
declare His deeds among the gentiles (Ps 104:43, 1).

One Who Comes to Meet Us

Some of you may be wondering why I chose, during this Easter Octave, to preach each day on the Introit of the Mass. The simple answer is this: one of you asked me to do it. A Sister suggested that it would be a good thing if I meditated on the Introit texts with you. And so I did. But there is another reason. Listen to what Father Maurice Zundel says:

“The Introit greets us at the entrance of the Mass. It is like a triumphal arch at the head of a Roman road, a porch through which we approach the Mystery, a hand outstretched to a crying child, a beloved companion in the sorrow of exile. The Liturgy is not a formula. It is One who comes to meet us.” (The Splendour of the Liturgy)

Toward the Heavenly Sanctuary

The Church gives us eight Introits for the Octave of Easter: one for each day. Each one is a mystic portal opening onto a particular facet of the Mystery and pointing us toward the heavenly sanctuary where, beyond the veil, Christ the Priest stands in glory before the Father.

Get On With It

Today’s Introit is but a single verse from Psalm 104. “The Lord brought forth His people with joy, alleluia: and His chosen ones with gladness, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 104:43). The psalm refers to the Exodus. This verse, chosen by the Church for us today, is about getting out of Egypt. Father Ray Blake, a parish priest in Brighton, England, had an aunt whose motto was, “Pull yourself together and get on with it.” The Church is our Mother, not our aunt, but she is saying something very like what Father Blake’s aunt used to say.

Into Life

Easter, or Pascha as the Church calls it in her official liturgical books, is about moving out and moving on. Out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Out of darkness into light. Out of sin into holiness. Out of decrepitude into vigor. Out of a pitiful self-absorption into fascination with the beauty of holiness that shines on the Face of Christ. Out of death into life.

The Illusion of Cosiness

It is a strange thing that, when it comes to getting on with it spiritually, some of us drag our feet. There is something inside us that remains attached to that old life of bondage under Pharaoh in Egypt. We reminisce about the “bad old days” and our imagination twists them into the “good old days” that they never were. There is nothing worthy of nostalgia about living in sin, under sin, or with sin. One of the devil’s ploys is to make us feel comfortable in our sins. He likes nothing better than to appeal to our innate desire for feeling cosy, and he creates the illusion of cosiness by enticing us to sink into our sins. In this way, he suggests that we really need not move forward, that things are fine just as they are, and that those think otherwise are either fanatics or idealists.

Joy and Gladness

Today’s Introit says that the Lord brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen ones with gladness. Joy because a new life was opening before them. Gladness because God had taken care of their enemies — a symbol of the old sins that pursue us — by sending them headlong into the churning waters of the Red Sea. Joy, because “the strife was o’er, the battle won.” Gladness because, as the Exultet puts it, we have been “restored to grace . . . and separated from the vices of the world and the darkness of sinners.”

Resistance

What would prevent you from experiencing this joy and gladness? A secret attachment to sin. A hankering after things as the Old Self would have them be. A resistance to the costly change of heart that is the price of new life.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Holy Week Homilies

Our Holy Father gave six extraordinary homilies during Holy Week. Study them. One commentator said that no one will be able to understand where this pontificate is going without pondering these six Holy Week homilies. One of Pope Benedict’s recurring themes is the importance of priest and people together facing in one direction during the Eucharistic Prayer. He addressed this very issue in his homily for the Paschal Vigil, and it is related to the thrust of today’s Introit.

This is what the Holy Father said:

“In the early Church there was a custom whereby the Bishop or the priest, after the homily, would cry out to the faithful: "Conversi ad Dominum" – turn now towards the Lord. This meant in the first place that they would turn towards the East, towards the rising sun, the sign of Christ returning, whom we go to meet when we celebrate the Eucharist. Where this was not possible, for some reason, they would at least turn towards the image of Christ in the apse, or towards the Cross, so as to orient themselves inwardly towards the Lord.”

[Note: This is why the Holy Father has restored the custom of placing the Cross in the centre of the altar, facing the priest, with three candles on either side of it. East does not always mean the geographical East; there is a liturgical East, that is the focal point above and beyond the assembly itself that directs us to “the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).]

Hearts Raised on High

“Fundamentally,” says the Holy Father, “this involved an interior event; conversion, the turning of our soul towards Jesus Christ and thus towards the living God, towards the true light. Linked with this, then, was the other exclamation that still today, before the Eucharistic Prayer, is addressed to the community of the faithful: "Sursum corda" – Lift up your hearts, high above the tangled web of our concerns, desires, anxieties and thoughtlessness – "Lift up your hearts, your inner selves!" In both exclamations we are summoned, as it were, to a renewal of our Baptism: "Conversi ad Dominum" – we must distance ourselves ever anew from taking false paths, onto which we stray so often in our thoughts and actions. We must turn ever anew towards him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must be converted ever anew, turning with our whole life towards the Lord. And ever anew we must allow our hearts to be withdrawn from the force of gravity, which pulls them down, and inwardly we must raise them high: in truth and love.”

Brilliant. Just brilliant. Do this and the joy and gladness evoked in today’s Introit will flood your heart and irrigate your life.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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