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Salve, Festa Dies

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It is the custom in some monasteries to go round the cloister, singing the Salve, Festa Dies, in procession before Lauds on Easter morning. Many years ago I awoke on Easter morning with the readings of the Great Paschal Vigil still fresh in my heart, and composed a strophe for each one, adapted to the lilting chant melody of the Salve, Festa Dies. The incomparable refrain is sung in Latin and repeated after each one of the strophes.

The Dominicans had, in various houses of their Order, the practice of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in this Easter morning procession. We read in the book for the Sacred Triduum of the Order of Preachers: In diluculo festi Resurrectionis Domini, in pluribus Conventibus, immediate post Matutinas, in memoriam tanti beneficii, fit Processio, et deportatur sanctissimum Eucharistiae Sacramentum per claustrum, sicit in die Corporis Christi, cum magna solemnitate. Wonderful!

Salve, Festa Dies

R. Salve festa dies toto venerabilis aevo
Qua Deus infernum vicit et astra tenet.

Let the whole cosmos dance in praise,
The skies, the oceans, mountains, hills and plains,
Sun and moon and stars in chorus ranged,
Praise Christ now risen from the dead!

Old Adam stirs from ancient sleep,
And Mother Eve stands up to see the sight,
Christ extends his hand to set them free,
And Hades’ caverns bathe in light!

To Abraham the Guest returns
Who long ago was welcomed 'neath the tree;
Sarah’s joy spills over once again
For Christ is risen from the dead!

He is the First-Born from the dead,
The Lamb by Isaac in the thicket seen
The Lamb once slain upon the mount
The living Shepherd of the sheep!

Now Moses sees him face to face,
The Son called out of Egypt’s narrow place;
The Red Sea crossed, the broad place gained
In Christ now risen from the dead!

The shroud and napkin in the tomb
Love’s face concealed through Sabbath tears and gloom;
The dawn reveals Love’s face in light
And every fear is put to flight.

Come to the waters, all who thirst,
The wellspring flows to wash away the curse;
The Seed, the Sower, and the Bread
Is Christ now risen from the dead!

Baruch his oracle declaims:
With you is wisdom, strength, and length of days;
You send forth light and quick it goes;
You name the stars, for you they glow.

Now hearts of stone are turned to flesh,
The hard and frozen melt beneath his Breath;
The torrent rushes sweet and fresh
For Christ is risen from the dead!

It is the first day of the week;
The bright and deathless Eighth Day let us keep!
Angelic whiteness fill our eyes,
And birdsong tells it to the skies.

Myrrh-bearing women, turn around;
The One you seek by you waits to be found.
Be not afraid, do as I said,
For Christ is risen from the dead.

Let chants of glory roll like waves;
For Christ has led to freedom Egypt’s slaves;
The Father’s thirst at last is quenched,
The Spirit’s dew the Church has drenched.


Again and again

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Fifth Wednesday of Paschaltide

Acts 15:1-6
Psalm 121: 1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5
John 15:1-8

Repetition

Repetition is integral to the liturgical pedagogy of the Church. Anthropologists tell us that ritual is all about doing the same things, in the same way, at the same time, over and over again. Culture flourishes where the same stories are repeated over and over again in the same way. From the point of view of the human sciences, repetition, not variety, is the ground of culture. From the Catholic point of view, it is outward repetition that makes inward change -- conversion -- possible. It is sameness that makes the difference. It is by hearing the same Word repeated in the same way that our hardened hearts are touched and, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, pierced and opened to holiness.

Always New

Though we may, from time to time, read the same text, the Gospel remains always new. Every time the holy Gospel is proclaimed, the voice of the risen Christ resounds in the Church. The Gospel is a sacrament of Christ's abiding presence. The Church has always been conscious of this mystery. She has, over the centuries, surrounded the Book of the Gospels and the proclamation of the liturgical Gospel with marks of solemnity and of joy. Unlike other books, the Book of the Gospels may be placed upon the altar. In the Corpus Christi procession in some places, the Book of the Gospels is carried by a deacon, under the canopy with the Blessed Sacrament, to signify that the same Christ, who speaks in the Gospel, gives himself as food in the Eucharist.

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Christ the Energetic Word

No one, I think, has better expressed this profoundly Catholic sense of the reality underlying the Gospel than the English writer, Evelyn Underhill. "The reading of the liturgic Gospel," she writes, "is something more than a mere instruction of the faithful. It is a vital moment in the sacred action of the Church. In it Christ the Energetic Word speaks and acts. The ceremonial and reverence with which all the ancient rites surround it, the psalm of joy with which it was welcomed, the Alleluia which announced the Divine presence -- also the sacred character which the Eastern Church still ascribes to the Book of the Gospels, and the deep awe with which its entrance is received -- may serve to remind us that the words and deeds, indeed the very life of the Incarnate Logos, are themselves sacramental impartings of the Infinite God to man, and the proper causes of his adoring gratitude and joy" (The Mystery of Sacrifice, 9-10).

The Word Comes Forth

In the Roman Rite, the deacon or, in his absence, the priest, takes the Book of the Gospels from the altar during the singing of the Alleluia, and carries it to the place where it will be proclaimed. In both East and West, the deacon or priest goes out from the altar towards the people, sometimes standing in the very middle of the church to proclaim the holy Gospel. "I proceeded and came forth from God," says Jesus (Jn 8:42). This movement out of the sanctuary and towards the people signifies the sending forth of the Word by the Father, the holy condescension by which God enters and redeems our finite experience. "Thy all powerful Word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land" (Wis 18:15). The Word comes into our midst, pitches His tent among us (Jn 1:14), brings light into our darkness (Jn 1:9), joy into all our sorrows (Jn 16:22), and life into the valley of the shadow of death (Lk 1:79; Jn 11:25).

Presence of the Living Christ

The liturgical practices of our Catholic tradition point to a great mystery. The proclamation of the Gospel is not the mere reading of a holy text. It is the presence of the living Christ who speaks, in every liturgical celebration, a creative word, a word that is divine, a word that contains within itself the power to transform our lives, to heal what is broken within us, to lift up the fallen, to give life to the dead. It is crucial that the proclamation of the Gospel remain -- or become --for Catholics, the shining summit of the Liturgy of the Word. Nothing must be allowed to trivialize so sacred a mystery, so wondrous a gift. In the Gospel, the very God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex 3:2) speaks now in our midst, making the place on which we stand holy ground (Ex 3:4).

Christ is the Vine

Today's Gospel is no mere repetition of the familiar parable. Today, Christ reveals himself to us as the Vine. He is the source of the life that courses through every branch, that gives greenness to every tendril, producing both the flower and the fruit. Fruitfulness is the distinctive sign of discipleship (Jn 15:8). Fruitfulness is the glory of the Father (Jn 15:8). Spiritual fecundity begins with the hearing of the Word.

Yes to Life

The disciple who says "No" to life; the disciple who, practicing spiritual contraception, shrinks from the responsibilities of supernatural fecundity "is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned" (Jn 15:6). The disciple who honours the charism of spiritual fatherhood and motherhood, and remains open to it, will in one way or another "bear much fruit" (Jn 15:8). Our Lord gives us this teaching on spiritual fecundity for our joy. He reveals these things to us because they will make us happy. "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (Jn 15:11).

The Mystery of Inter-Abiding

The living word of the Gospel comes to us warm with the breath of the Risen Christ. We take it to heart that it may abide deep within, flower, and come to fruition in us. And then, we receive the sacred Body and precious Blood of Christ. The Most Holy Eucharist completes the Gospel, realizes the Gospel for us here and now. In the Eucharist, the Christ of the Gospel becomes our food and drink. The Eucharist is the mystery of inter-abiding: the life of Christ in us, and of our life in Christ.

Silence

Just as the inexhaustible Gospel is never repeated, so too with the inexhaustible and life-giving Eucharist: every celebration of Holy Mass carries us into new depths of divine intimacy. After the Gospel has been proclaimed, after the Divine Bread has been broken and the most holy Chalice poured out, all resolves into silence. In that silence, germinates the Word.

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The patristic reading at Matins really struck me this morning. I first began reading Clement of Alexandria about forty years ago. I remember going to share my discovery of Clement with Father D.B., a wise and kind Anglican clergyman at New Haven's magnificent Christ Church. Clement of Alexandria has lost nothing of his freshness for me.

Then, there is today's Collect. It's very difficult to translate elegantly. Most translations settle for a paraphrase. The prayer asks that we be preserved from doubt and made constant in faith and in hope.

At Matins: The Lesson of the Second Nocturn
From The Exhortation to the Heathen of Clement of Alexandria, Chapter IX

The Soul's Awakening

The Lord, with ceaseless assiduity,
exhorts, terrifies, urges, rouses, admonishes;
He awakes from the sleep of darkness,
and raises up those who have wandered in error.
"Awake," He says, "thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give thee light," --
Christ, the Sun of the Resurrection,
He "who was born before the morning star,"
and with His beams bestows life.

Despise Not the Word

Let no one then despise the Word, lest he unwittingly despise himself.
For the Scripture somewhere says,
"To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
The Lord, in His love to man, invites all men to the knowledge of the truth,
and for this end sends the Paraclete.

His Only Work: Our Salvation

No one will be so impressed by the exhortations of any of the saints,
as he is by the words of the Lord Himself, the Lover of man.
For this, and nothing but this, is His only work--the salvation of man.
Therefore He Himself, urging them on to salvation, cries,
"The kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Toward Unity in Love

Hear, then, ye who are far off, hear ye who are near:
the word has not been hidden from any;
the light is common, it shines "on all men."
Let us hasten to salvation, to regeneration;
let us who are many hasten
that we may be brought together into one love,
according to the union of the essential unity;
and let us, by being made good, conformably follow after unity,
seeking after the unity of The One.

Christ, Our Choir-Leader

The union of many in one,
issuing in the production of divine harmony out of a medley of sounds and division, becomes one symphony following one choir-leader and teacher,
the Word, reaching and resting in the same truth,
and crying Abba, Father.
This, the true utterance of His children,
God accepts with gracious welcome,
the first-fruits He receives from them.

TODAY'S COLLECT

or

O God, who in the resurrection of Christ,
dost restore us to eternal life,
give Thy people constancy in faith and hope,
that, without wavering,
they may await the fulfillment
of what Thou hast revealed and promised.

My Sheep Will Hear My Voice

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Thanks to the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Forestdale, Massachusetts for the lovely mosaic of the Good Shepherd.

The Shepherd's Voice

On this "Good Shepherd Sunday," the Lord Jesus says, "My sheep will hear My voice" (Jn 10:16). For the sheep of His flock, the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd has a uniquely penetrating quality, an unmistakable accent of tenderness, a note of divine authority that goes straight to the heart. The believing heart leaps with recognition at the sound of Jesus' voice. "The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out" (Jn 10:3).

Say Only the Word

The word of Christ accomplishes what it expresses. Just before approaching the altar for Holy Communion, the the Church makes us pray three times in the words of the centurion, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but say only the word, and my soul shall be healed" (Lk 7:6-7). Our hearts may be frozen in an icy indifference. They may be shriveled up in the desert wastes of sin. They may be numbed by a secret pain. Even so, the psalmist sings, "He sends forth His word and it melts them; at the breath of His mouth the waters flow" (Ps 147:18). He has only to say the word. We have only to hear it.

If Anyone Hears My Voice

To listen to the voice of Jesus with the ear of the heart is the first step in any relationship with Him. In the Apocalypse Our Lord says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20-21). Intimacy with Christ the Good Shepherd requires a listening heart. A listening heart will be a vulnerable heart. To listen with the ear of the heart is to open oneself to the other; it is to risk relationship. When the heart stops listening to the other, relationship -- communion with the other -- begins to disintegrate. This is true of friendship. It is true of marriage. It is true of our relationship with Christ our God.

Listen in Adoring Silence

Recall that in Saint Luke's gospel, Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and of Martha, seated herself at the Lord's feet and stayed there listening to His words (Lk 10:39). Mary of Bethany was like a lamb resting at her shepherd's feet, and Jesus praised her listening heart. "Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her (Lk 10:42). The Song of Songs interprets her experience, "With great delight I sat in His shadow, and His fruit was sweet to my taste (Ct 2:3), and again, "His speech is most sweet, He is altogether desirable (Ct 5:16). This is the experience of all who, down through the ages, have stilled and quieted their hearts to listen to the voice of the Shepherd Christ. Our relationship with Christ necessarily expresses itself in action -- and in words -- but it begins in listening. This listening in adoring silence is, to borrow Dom Chautard's expression, "the soul of the apostolate."

Sharper Than Any Two-Edged Sword

The ear of the heart learns to distinguish the voice of the Shepherd Christ among the tumult of a thousand other voices. There is something incisive and tender all at once about the voice of Jesus. It wounds and it heals. It challenges and it comforts. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the throughts and intentions of the heart"(He 4:12). If we resist the voice of Jesus, the sound of it is painful; if we listen to His voice, by a single word we can be healed.

Made Whole by the Word of His Mouth

Like Mary of Bethany, Mary of Magdala heard the voice of Jesus. Our Lord knew her to be one of His own, and she followed Him even to the cross. Saint John shows us the Good Shepherd become the Lamb of Sacrifice. His arms are spread wide upon the Cross, and at His feet are the cherished sheep of His flock. "By the Cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala" (Jn 19:25), the lamb wounded and torn, the lamb whom the Shepherd had made whole by the word of His mouth. Mary of Magdala is there, at the feet of the immolated Lamb, listening and loving. The words of Jesus from the Cross fall into her heart, wounding and healing all at once.

At the Sound of His Voice

After the resurrection of Jesus, Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb, a disoriented lamb in search of her Shepherd. She sees Him through her tears. Saint John says, "she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus" (Jn 20:15). There follows a moving exchange between the Shepherd and the lamb. "'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?' Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, 'Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away'" (Jn 20:14-15). And then, in His own inimitable way, the Shepherd Jesus said, "'Mary" (Jn 20:16). She knew Him then, at the sound of His voice, and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" which means "Master" (Jn 20:17).

Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus not at the sight of His Face, but at the sound of His voice. Our own intimacy with the Lord Jesus leads to vision face-to-face, but begins in the bright darkness of faith where we have only the sound of His voice to guide us. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and staff, they comfort me" (Ps 23:4).

He Speaks

For the present, we walk in darkness with only the voice of the Shepherd to direct us. Our Divine Shepherd speaks to us in the Church. He speaks to us through the Sacred Liturgy, through the Holy Scriptures, and through those to whom He has confided His flock. He speaks to each one also in the deepest recesses of the heart, saying, "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30). The spiritual experience of a Poor Clare of the last century, Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity (Louisa Jacques, 1901-1942) attests to the mystery of the One who, at every moment, speaks to the soul who is silent enough and humble enough to listen. He calls each of us by name; we know Him at the sound of His voice, revealing the Father and breathing forth the Holy Spirit.

We Shall See Him As He Is

The Lamb himself is our Shepherd. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more" (Rev 21:4). On that day, not only will our ears be filled with the sound of His voice, but our eyes will be filled with the vision of His face. For this perfect and unending happiness were we created. Nothing less can satisfy the hunger of the human heart. On that day "we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2).

His Voice and His Face

In the meantime, we are given the adorable mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. In the Breaking of the Bread, "our eyes are opened" (Lk 24:31 to recognize the Lamb who was slain, Christ our Shepherd. The Most Holy Eucharist wonderfully fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah: "He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs in His arms, He will carry them in His bosom" (Is 40:11). "Behold, the Lamb of God" (Jn 1:29)! Behold, the Good Shepherd! Listen for the sound His Voice! Yearn to fill your gaze with the vision of His Face!

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Today's Collect

O God, who for the salvation of the world,
brought about the paschal sacrifice,
be favourable to the supplications of your people,
that with Christ our Pontiff interceding for us,
we may be reconciled by that in which he is like unto us,
and be absolved by that in which he is equal to you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Christ Our Pontiff

On this Thursday of the Second Week of Pascha, the Church gives us a Collect focusing on the mediatorship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest. Very fitting, in fact, for a Thursday. "With Christ our Pontiff interceding for us," is, of course, an allusion to Hebrews 7:25. The word "pontiff" -- meaning bridge-builder -- is, I think, a more suitable translation than "high priest" in this instance, given that Christ Himself is the bridge, the Divine Mediator uniting God to man and man to God.

Saint Catherine of Siena

This recalls the words of the Eternal Father to Saint Catherine of Siena in The Dialogues:

I also wish you to look at the Bridge of My only-begotten Son, and see the greatness thereof, for it reaches from Heaven to earth, that is, that the earth of your humanity is joined to the greatness of the Deity thereby. I say then that this Bridge reaches from Heaven to earth, and constitutes the union which I have made with man.
This was necessary, in order to reform the road which was broken, as I said to you, in order that man should pass through the bitterness of the world, and arrive at life; but the Bridge could not be made of earth sufficiently large to span the flood and give you Eternal Life, because the earth of human nature was not sufficient to satisfy for guilt, to remove the stain of Adam's sin. Which stain corrupted the whole human race and gave out a stench, as I have said to you above. It was, therefore, necessary to join human nature with the height of My nature, the Eternal Deity, so that it might be sufficient to satisfy for the whole human race, so that human nature should sustain the punishment, and that the Divine nature, united with the human, should make acceptable the sacrifice of My only Son, offered to Me to take death from you and to give you life.
So the height of the Divinity, humbled to the earth, and joined with your humanity, made the Bridge and reformed the road. Why was this done? In order that man might come to his true happiness with the angels. And observe, that it is not enough, in order that you should have life, that My Son should have made you this Bridge, unless you walk thereon.

My Lord and My God!

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Second Sunday of Pascha
Divine Mercy Sunday

Acts 4: 32-35
Psalm 117: 2-4. 15c-16b and 17-18, 22-24 (r. 1)
1 John 5: 1-7
John 20:19-31

The Day the Lord Has Made

"This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!" (Ps 117:24). You know well that for eight days already we have celebrated a single day: the perfect and unending Day of the Risen Christ, the great and glorious Pasch of the Lord! For eight days now the splendour of "the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" (Rev 1:8) has flooded the Church with light and joy.

Quasimodo

In the early Church, on this Second Sunday of Easter, the newly-baptized would conclude their week-long celebration of new life by putting aside the white garments received at Baptism. And Mother Church, addressing herself to them, sings in today's Introit: "As you are new-born children, all your craving must be for the pure milk of the spirit so that you may thrive upon it to the health of your souls" (1 P 2:2). Today's glorious Introit is a key text for us. It unlocks all the rest. It is the voice of a Mother addressing her newborn infants. So important is this text that, in ancient times, today was known as Quasimodo Sunday, from the first word of the Introit: "After the manner of newborn infants, alleluia, desire the pure milk of the Word, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia" (1 P 2:2).

Pure Spiritual Milk

"All your craving must be for pure spiritual milk" (1 P 2:2). This craving for the Word of God is a sign of spiritual health. Where do we go for this pure, spiritual milk of the Word if not to the breasts of Mother Church, to the Word of God given us in the liturgy day by day? This is why the faithful of the primitive Church used to "meet by common consent in the Portico of Solomon" (Ac 5: 12). This is why we assemble, Sunday after Sunday, not in Solomon's portico, but in the living Temple of the new Solomon, the Body of Christ, the Church, and in "the shadow of Peter" (cf. Ac 5:15). Every time the Word is proclaimed, sung, repeated, preached, and prayed, we are nourished with pure spiritual milk. It is the corporate hearing of the Word that fashions us into a company with "one heart and one soul" (Ac 4:32).

Divine Mercy

The Christ of today's second reading is the Crucified, the Pierced One out of whose open heart flows a torrent of water and of blood. Remain beneath the glorious Cross of Christ together with the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, the other holy women, and the disciple whom he loved. Make of your heart an open chalice held aloft to receive the torrent gushing from his pierced side, that not a drop of it be lost. All that flows from the side of Christ must be received by the Church in adoration and intercession, and then, distributed lavishly, applied with tenderness to every spiritual brokenness and wound. This is the spiritual ministry of Divine Mercy.

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The Sacred Wounds

The Christ of the gospel, standing in the midst of his disciples (cf. Jn 20:19), displays his wounds to them. Saint John makes no mention of the radiance of his glory; he alludes only to his wounds. Why? Because for Saint John the Theologian, the glory of the Risen Christ shines forth from his wounds, fulfilling the words of the prophet Habakuk: "His brightness was like the light, rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power" (Hab 3:4).

His Hands and His Side

Imprisoned by fear, struggling with temptations against faith and hope, the disciples tremble behind closed and bolted doors when suddenly Jesus is there standing in their midst. "Peace be with you" (Jn 20:19), he says. His first gift is a gift of peace. In imparting the gift of peace, Jesus showed the disciples His hands and His side. The glorious wounds of the Risen Christ authenticate His identity. This is the same Jesus who was crucified. This is the same Jesus whom we contemplated during Holy Week, "without form or comeliness that we should look at him, despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Is 53:3-6). The risen Jesus remains the wounded one, and, as Saint Peter says, "by His wounds we are healed" (1 P 2:24). This was our prayer at the very beginning of the Great Paschal Vigil last Saturday night: "By His wounds holy and glorious may Christ guard and protect us."

The paschal candle, placed next to the ambo, is a symbol of the Risen Christ marked with His five wounds, shedding His light over the Scriptures and illumining their proclamation. Just as truly as He was in the upper room with his disciples, the Risen One is here among us. He gives us the same peace. He shows us the same wounds, shining with healing mercy, a mercy that penetrates all our fears.

The Missionary Church

Jesus says to the disciples a second time, "Peace be with you" (Jn 20:21). This is no vain repetition. It is a repetition in the power of the Spirit, the very kind of repetition that, even to the present, is intrinsic to the liturgy of the Church. Then he adds, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20:22) Christ's mission does not end with his death and resurrection. His mission is continued in the children that, until the end of time, will be born of His Bride, the Church. The Church assembled by the Word, the Church united around the altar, is a Church sent forth. The Church is the community of those who are nourished with the pure spiritual milk of the Word. The Church is the community of those who have experienced the mercy of the Risen Christ and known his peace.

The Church of the Wounded

The Church is a community of wounded persons: wounded persons who have contemplated the glorious wounds of the Risen Christ. Our wounds are the means by which the mercy of the Risen Christ penetrates into the secret places of the soul. Those who have no wounds, or those who pretend to have none, shut out the healing mercy of Christ. A certain kind of virtue -- self-sufficient and hard -- renders one impenetrable to the balm of Divine Mercy. Those who know themselves to be wounded and who expose their wounds to the radiance of Christ's glorious wounds, experience the power of His resurrection. These alone are sent forth by Christ to carry on His work of healing mercy in the world.

Thomas

The gospel recounts a second apparition of the risen Christ, this one a week after the first. Again, a Sunday evening; again, the locked doors. Again, Jesus comes and stands in their midst. Again the gift from the heart: "Peace be with you" (Jn 20:26). And then to Thomas, torn between the desire to believe and persistent doubts, he says, "Take your finger and probe my hands. Put your hand into my side" (Jn 20:27). That is to say, "Put your hand into my heart, Thomas. Touch what is most intimate in me, or rather allow me to touch what is most intimate in you, that you may not persist in your unbelief, but become full of faith." These words of Jesus are given us, designedly, as today's Communion Antiphon, to accompany the procession of those who, full of adoration, approach the wounds of Christ's glorious Body.

An Infusion of Divine Mercy

The wounds of disbelief are healed when we touch the glorious body of the Risen Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the healing of doubt, of fear, and of hopelessness. The Most Holy Eucharist, like the sacrament of Penance that is wonderfully ordered to it, is an infusion of Divine Mercy.

Saint Faustina

This was the experience of Saint Faustina. A humble woman, she was chosen by the Risen Christ in the 1930's to recall the Church to trust in Divine Mercy. The icon of the merciful Christ by which Saint Faustina sought to draw the wounded, the doubting and the fearful to Divine Mercy is, in fact, a depiction of today's gospel, a way of expressing exactly what Saint Benedict enjoins on us in Chapter Four of the Holy Rule: "Never to despair of the Mercy of God" (RB 4:74).

Drink deeply today of the Water and the Blood; like Thomas, stretch out our hands to probe Christ's glorious wounds, to penetrate even to His Sacred Heart. In response, the consecrated hands of the priest, acting in the person of Christ the Bridegroom and Head, will offer you the mysteries of His Sacred Body and Blood. Then, will the prayer of Saint Faustina -- Jesus, I trust in you! -- well up from deep within all of us. Then will the cry of Thomas become our own: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28).

Aqua Sapientiae

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Tuesday of Pascha

Proper of the Mass

Those of you who follow the preaching of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will have noticed how consistently he comments on the Proper of the Mass. The Proper of the Mass -- the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Sequence (when there is one), Offertory, and Communion -- are those chants, drawn principally from Sacred Scripture, that form the context for the other variable elements of every Mass: the Collect, Prayer Over the Gifts, Postcommunion Prayer and, of course, the Word of God given us in the Lectionary.

One cannot ignore the Proper of the Mass without deconstructing the theological architecture of the celebration. The Proper Chants of the Mass are not decorative, they are structural. Decorative elements can be changed or moved at will; structural elements cannot. When they are displaced, the harmonious whole of the Mass disintegrates.

Paschal Introits

This being said, let us look at two elements in today's Mass: the Introit and the Sequence. Today we have the third Introit of Pascha. The first, on Easter Sunday morning, allowed us to hear, and participate in, the ineffable conversation of the Risen Son with His Father: "I arose and am still with you, alleluia: you have laid your hand upon me, alleluia: your knowledge is wonderful, alleluia, alleluia (Ps 138:18, 5-6).

The second, yesterday morning, was addressed to the newly-baptized: "The Lord has brought you into a land flowing with milk and honey, alleluia; that the law of the Lord may be ever in your mouth, alleluia, alleluia (Ex 13:5-9).

Water to Drink

Today's Introit, drawn from the book of Ecclesiasticus, recalls what happened to the catechumens baptized in the night of Pascha: "He gave them the water of wisdom to drink, alleluia: it shall be made strong in them and shall not be moved, alleluia, and it shall raise them up forever, alleluia, alleluia" (Ecclus 15:3-4).

This water of wisdom is the very water that Our Lord promised to the Samaritan woman on the Third Sunday of Lent. "He that shall drink of the water that I will give him," says Jesus, "shall not thirst for ever: but the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting" (Jn 4:13-14). It is the water of divine grace, the water of Trinitarian life that gushes from the Open Side of the Crucified and Risen Lord, irrigating the souls of the baptized, and making the Church resplendent with holiness. This is an unfailing stream of water. It is an impetuous torrent that will never dry up, because its source is in God. Those who yield to its power will be carried into God to live in His Love and in His Light forever.

The Sacraments

The Aqua sapientiae, the water of wisdom, reaches us, and irrigates our souls, through the channels of the sacraments. One who stays away from the sacraments will suffer from spiritual drought. The fruits of the Holy Spirit will become scarce. Those that do appear will be paltry and, in the end, will dry up. Sin creates a blockage in the irrigation of the soul. Confession and absolution removes the obstacles that clog the flow of grace. Many of you are looking toward the festival of Divine Mercy this coming Sunday: the Sacrament of Penance renews the grace of Baptism, and opens the heart to the living water that flows from the pierced Heart of the Merciful Christ.

Victimae Paschali Laudes

The second element of today's Mass that merits special attention is the Sequence. It is about one thousand years old. The word Sequence means something that follows another: the Sequence of the Mass follows the Alleluia and, in a sense, springs out of it.

Father Maurice Zundel writes of the Sequence in characteristically poetic terms. This is what he says:

When the Alleluia, having soared to its highest point, bends earthward once more to return to vocal chant, a rocket, as it were, dissolves into sparkling stars, the neums spread out into a shower and give rise to the Sequence.

The Easter Sequence, Victimae Paschali Laudes, is attributed to one Wipo (died c. 1050), a court chaplain of the emperors Conrad II and Henry III. It is the most popular of the medieval Sequences. It inspired countless para-liturgical dramas or vivid representations of Mary Magdalene in dialogue with the Apostles within the context of the liturgy itself.

Praise to the Lamb

The first and second verses of the Victimae Paschali Laudes call the sheep, all who share in the redemption wrought by Christ, to offer their praises to Christ the immolated Lamb. Jesus, the "lamb without blemish" (Ex 12:5), reconciles sinners, sheep marred by sin, to the Father (cf. Is 53:6).

Prince of Life

The third verse describes the Passion as an epic struggle between death and the Prince of Life. It echoes 1 Corinthians 15:54-55: "Death is swallowed up in victory." We call our Lord the Dux vitae, the Prince of Life, and the One who leads us into life with Himself.

Mary Magdalene

In the fourth verse, the Apostles interrogate Mary Magdalene: "Tell us, Mary, what thou sawest, as thou wentest on the way." Mary Magdalene, the apostola apostolorum, replies by singing of the glory of the risen Christ (cf. Jn 20:18), of bright angels (cf. Mk 16:5 and Lk 24:4) and of the empty tomb (cf. Jn 20:12-13). She proclaims to the apostles that "Christ, her hope is risen," and obedient to the Lord's injunction (Mt 28:10), announces that he goes before his own into Galilee.

The Victor King

The final verse, a triumphant confession of Christ's resurrection, is sung in unison by the entire chorus: the faithful, Mary Magdalene, and apostles. The very last line, a plea for mercy, addresses Jesus as Victor Rex, the Victor King (cf. Rev 19:16).

What Earlier Generations Held As Sacred

Pope Benedict XVI has given us a guiding principle that we need to put into practice with a joyful docility. Listen to what he says:

What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.

Past, Present, and Future

The Holy Father is setting an example for the whole Church by restoring, with serenity and determination, elements of our Catholic patrimony that were in danger of being relegated to museums. By doing this, he is teaching us that the Church remains forever young: that being Catholic means that nothing of what the Holy Spirit has given to the Church is locked in an irretrievable past. One who negates the past, or attempts to put its treasures into storage, negates the future, and impedes the grace of new life. "Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live" (Dt 30:19). Christ, our Hope, is risen, and goes before us.


Days of Milk and Honey

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Although Holy Mass is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form here in the little Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, I thought I might share with the readers of Vultus Christi a homily I preached from the Ordinary Form on the Monday of Pascha several years ago.

Monday of Pascha

Lectionary in the Ordinary Form:
Acts 2:14, 22-32
Matthew 28:8-15

Health, Life, and Resurrection

Today we continue our uninterrupted celebration of the Pasch in the Resurrection of the Lord. A number of motifs begin to emerge. On Maundy Thursday evening at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we recalled the promises of the Father that, since the First Sunday of Lent, we had carried in our hearts, promises that came into sharper focus for us as we sang that night in the Introit, of the health, life, resurrection, and deliverance that are ours in the glorious Cross of Jesus Christ.

The Cross and the Supper of the Lamb

Friday passed: the Word of the Cross reducing us to silence; the mystery of the Cross compelling us to place our faces in the dust from which we came. Saturday too passed: the great and solemn Sabbath of a silence holding fast the secret of our hope. It was in that silence that we began to hear, faintly at first, the call ad mensam, the call ad coenam, the call to the wedding feast of the Lamb in which every promise of the Father is fulfilled.

Instruction in Prayer

In the great and solemn Vigil, we sat in the dark like the catechumens of old assembled around their bishop for the final, grand catechesis before full initiation into the holy mysteries. A God faithful to His promises revealed Himself in the long series of readings, psalms, and collects. This too was the Church’s own instruction of those about to be baptized, her final and urgent teaching in the way of Christian prayer. Again and again, with a patient pedagogy, the rhythm repeated itself -- lectio, meditatio, oratio -- until at length, it was time to go to the font, time to descend into the womb, time to come forth from the tomb.

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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