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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.


Via Crucis for Priests

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First Station
Jesus Condemned to Death

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.
(1 Corinthians 4, 1-5)

V. Prove me, O Lord, and try me.
R. Test my heart and my mind. (Psalm 25, 2)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb without blemish or spot,
You accepted the judgment of a human tribunal,
and by Your humble surrender to a sentence of condemnation,
opened to sinners the tribunal of Your inexhaustible mercy;
look graciously upon Your priests,
that as faithful stewards of the mysteries of God,
they may draw sinners into the embrace of the Father,
Who not sparing You, gave You up for us all.
With Whom You live and reign
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Second Station
Jesus Is Laden with the Cross

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand I seek him, but I cannot behold him; I turn to the right hand, but I cannot see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth. (Job 30, 10-12)

V. Surely He has borne our griefs.
R. And carried our sorrows. (Is 53, 4)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, laden with the wood of the Cross,
You were regarded as a lamb to be slaughtered;
be the strength of those priests of Yours
who go forward in the midst of tribulation and distress,
famine, weariness, and peril,
that comforted by Your presence,
they may, in turn, be able to comfort those
who are in any affliction,
with the comfort that You have given them.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Third Station
Jesus Falls the First Time

They abhor me, they keep aloof from me; they do not hesitate to spit at the sight of me. Because God has loosed my cord and humbled me, they have cast off restraint in my presence. On my right hand the rabble rise, they drive me forth, they cast up against me their ways of destruction. (Job 30, 10-12)

V. When I thought, "My foot slips."
R. Your mercy, O Lord, held me up. (Psalm 93, 18).

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of man from the dust of the earth,
You fell beneath the weight of the tree
and, in the sight of all, lay humbled in that very dust;
reveal to those priests of Yours brought low by weakness
the surpassing power of Your grace deployed in infirmity,
for when they are weak, You are their strength,
and when they fall, You raise them up.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Fourth Station
Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother

What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you? (Lamentations 2, 13)

V. Cry aloud to the Lord, O daughter of Zion.
R. Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night. (Lamentations 2, 18)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, despised and rejected by men,
Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief,
Your Virgin Mother beheld Your Face
bruised and bloodied, disfigured and defiled,
and You, in her gaze, beheld a pool of tenderness
for the refreshment of Your Heart and the hearts of Your priests
through the ages;
grant that every priest of Yours
may find in Mary's pure gaze
the courage to advance along the Way of the Cross
until, with her, he enters forever into the joy of Your Resurrection.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Fifth Station
Simon the Cyrenian Is Made to Help Jesus

Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3, 13-20)

V. Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us.
R. Behold, and see our disgrace. (Lamentations 5, 1)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest,
You sympathize with our weaknesses
for in the days of Your flesh
You were tempted as we are, yet without sin;
with confidence, then, do we draw near to You
humbly praying that Your priests may receive mercy and find grace
to take upon their shoulders that sweet yoke of the Cross
by which You bind them to Yourself in the mystery of Your Sacrifice.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Sixth Station
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3, 18; 4, 1, 5-6)

V. Of you my heart has spoken, "Seek His Face."
R. It is Your Face, O Lord, that I seek.

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Image of the Invisible God,
with no form or comeliness that we should look at You,
and no beauty that we should desire You,
open the eyes of Your priests to the light of Your Countenance
that. by contemplating Your Holy Face,
the sacramental character of your priesthood in their souls
may grow ever more radiant
for the glory of Your Father
and the joy of Your Spouse, the Church.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Seventh Station
Jesus Falls the Second Time

Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (2 Corinthians 11, 25-30)

V. My grace is sufficient for you.
R. For my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12, 9)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You fell beneath the weight of the Cross
and so made Yourself close to all who cleave to the dust
in moments of humiliation, failure, and disgrace;
by the grace of Your abasement
raise those of Your priests who have fallen low,
restore unto them the joy of Your salvation,
and strengthen them with a perfect spirit.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Eighth Station
Jesus is Comforted by the Women of Jerusalem

The Lord calls you back, a woman forsaken and forlorn, the wife of his youth, long cast away; your God sends you word, If I abandoned you, it was but for a little moment, and now, in my great compassion, I bring you home again. I hid my face from you, but for a short while, till my anger should be spent; love that takes pity on you shall be eternal, says the Lord, your redeemer. (Isaiah 54:6-8)

V. Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends.
R. For the hand of God has touched me. (Job 19:21)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You revealed the thoughts of Your Heart to the women of Jerusalem,
enjoining them to weep for themselves and for their children;
pierce the hearts of Your priests with sorrow for sin,
giving them the grace to mingle their tears
with those of the spiritual mothers
whom You have called to console and sustain the priesthood
by the hidden oblation of their sufferings and their prayer.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Ninth Station
Jesus Falls the Third Time

He has made me a byword of the peoples, and I am one before whom men spit.
My eye has grown dim from grief, and all my members are like a shadow. (Job 17, 6-7)

V. My soul cleaves to the dust.
R. Revive me according to Your Word. (Psalm 118, 25)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, when you fell a third time
beneath the terrible weight of the Cross
a rain of insults assailed Your Heart in all its tenderness;
allow us, by adoring the mystery of Your humiliation,
to obtain for the most shamed and broken of Your priests
the grace to recover their sacred dignity
and to honour the character of Your priesthood
that is forever inscribed in their souls.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Tenth Station
Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2, 5-8).

V. They divided My garments among them.
R. And for My raiment they cast lots. (Psalm 21, 18)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
by the abjection of Your nakedness
You won for the children of Adam and Eve
a vesture of grace and of glory
more beautiful by far than the original innocence they lost by sin;
grant to all Your priests the gift of calling sinners to repentance
and of restoring to Your friendship
those whom sin has caused to hide from Your face.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Eleventh Station
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. . . . Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God. Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6, 14-17).

V. He Himself bore our sins in His Body.
R. By His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2, 24)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you were nailed to the wood of the Cross
so that, by Your wounds and by the shedding of your Blood,
those wounded by sin might find healing and copious redemption;
look, then, upon your priests --
heal those wounded by sin
and, in Your inexhaustible mercy,
use them to make many whole,
for You are the Physician of our souls and bodies.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Twelfth Station
Jesus Dies Upon the Cross

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23, 44-46)

V. One of the soldiers open His side with a spear.
R. And at once there came out blood and water. (John 19, 34)

Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim,
glorious in this, the Hour of Your Sacrifice,
pour forth upon all the priests of Your Church
the sanctifying Breath of Your Mouth.
Wash them in that torrent of mercy
that ever flows from Your pierced side
and, at the hour of their death,
make them worthy of joining You
before the Father in the heavenly sanctuary beyond the veil,
where You are always living to make intercession for us.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Thirteenth Station
Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross

Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. (Luke 23:50-54)

V. This is My Body which is for you.
R. I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly. (1 Corinthians 11, 24; John 10, 10)

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Immaculate Lamb immolated upon the altar of the Cross,
bestow, we beseech You, upon all your priests
such purity of heart in drawing near to Your altar,
such adoration in the enactment of Your sacrifice,
and such reverence in the handling of Your Holy Mysteries,
that by their decreasing in the eyes of men,
You may increase until, at length,
You are all in all.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Fourteenth Station
Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb

Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2, 14-16)

V. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
R. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
hidden from our eyes,
and silent in the stillness of the tomb,
let the prayer of Your Virgin Mother
enfold the priests of Your Church
and sustain them in the valley of the shadow of death,
that by always carrying Your Passion in their bodies,
they may contemplate Your Face in faith's dark night
and rejoice in the revelation of Your glory.
Who live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.


Holy Pascha

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The Vigil

Christ is risen!
Last night, as we kept the great and solemn vigil, “the mother of all vigils,”
the brightest Eucharist of the year,
the Word of God, again and again,
struck our ears, pierced our hearts,
came to flower in psalms and canticles on our lips.
A procession passed before our eyes!
Abraham and Isaac were there;
Moses, Aaron, and Miriam were there, with all the children of Israel;
Isaiah, Baruch, and Ezekiel were there;
Paul was there, Paul of the risen Christ, Paul of the dazzling Christ.
And so were we led to the pure, the undiluted sound of Pascha.
The entire vigil dissolved into “the one first note of joy
which nothing and no one can imitate,” the alleluia.

The Alleluia

Dame Aemiliana Löhr’s classic description of the Paschal Alleluia
remains the best of all:
“It rose with a slow movement;
it rose above the grave of Adam,
and it had the blood of Christ on it’s wings.”
The alleluia itself, for all its beauty, blossomed into something else.
It set the tone for Psalm 117, the paschal psalm par excellence,
the psalm that is, from beginning to end a cry of Eucharist:
“Confess unto the Lord for he is good:
unto ages unending is his mercy” (Ps 117:1).

Psalm 117

Today’s liturgy continues the psalm intoned last night.
(It’s almost as if we never went to bed.)
The twenty-fourth verse becomes our refrain:
“Haec dies quam fecit Dominus:
exsultemus, et laetemur in ea.”
“This is the day which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad therein” (Ps 117:24).
Psalm 117 is the last of the six psalms of praise known as the Hallel
sung in the liturgy of the Temple
at Passover, at Pentecost, and on the other high feasts.

Jubilation

In the Jewish ear, in the Jewish mouth,
Psalm 117 is a riot of jubilation;
it celebrates the triumph of the Messiah, the Anointed, the Christ.
The voice of the warrior-king makes itself heard above all others:
“I thank Thee,
(I eucharistify Thee)
that Thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the head of the corner.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps 117:21-23).

The Triumph of the Warrior-King

In the Christian ear, Psalm 117 is the voice of Jesus,
the warrior-king come back from the stupendous struggle with death,
come back from the sixth day battle fought with outstretched hands,
come back from the harrowing of Hades.
It is the sound of Eucharist.

This thing done by God,
the victory of His Christ,
makes a today unlike every other day,
a day forever to be remembered
We hear the Haec dies more intensely than we sing it,
and in it recognize, like Mary at the tomb,
the voice of our Christ, our “Victor Rex.”

A few moments ago, we sang the Haec dies
in response to Peter’s confession of the crucified and risen Jesus.
“They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree;
but God raised Him on the third day and made Him manifest;
not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as His witnesses,
who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead” (Ac 10:39-41).
Peter’s “third day” (Ac 10:39)
is “the day the Lord has made” (Ps 117:24);
the third day becomes the first day,
the day of the creation of the light (Gen 1:3).
It becomes the mysterious eighth day,
the beginning of the new creation
that has for light and for lamp the glory of God and the Lamb (Rev 21:22).

For us, this means,
that in our celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice today,
in our obedience to the commandment of the Lord,
“Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19),
we pass all together into the “Day of the Lord” (Rev 1:10).
The third day, the first day, and the eighth day
are mysteriously and simultaneously made present.
It is true: the then” of Christ has become our “now,”
and our “now:” passes over into His “then.”

“Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus:
quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius.”
“Confess unto the Lord for He is good:
unto ages unending is His mercy” (Ps 117:1).
To confess means to praise, to bless, to offer thanks.
The Eucharist is Christ’s great confession of the goodness of the Lord;
the Eucharist is our memorial confession of His mercy.
The Eucharist is the goodness of the Lord
given for all in the Divine Bread and in the Sacred Chalice.
The Eucharist is the taste of mercy in the mouth,
the sweetness of victory over death, leaving no bitterness,
satisfying, invigorating, making all things new (Rev 21:5).
Christ is risen!

No Boasting But in the Cross

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Maundy Thursday
Vesperal Mass of the Lord's Supper


April 1, 2010
Cathedral of the Holy Family
Tulsa, Oklahoma

"For us, no boasting,
but in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
These are the words of the Church as she crosses the threshold
to enter into these Three Days of Awe.

"For us, no boasting,
but in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
These are the words of every priest,
from our Holy Father Benedict XVI
to the very youngest and the very last frail man
anointed and set apart to make present the one saving Mystery of the Cross
on the altars of the world.

"For us, no boasting,
but in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
These are the words of every priest
in this Year of the Priesthood,
a year of grace for the whole Church,
the year of a priesthood that has, in recent weeks
felt the cruel lash of a hostile media,
the sting of a bloodthirsty public commentary indifferent to truth,
and set upon reviling the very things we hold in deepest reverence.

"For us, no boasting" (Gal 6:14).
No boasting, that is, of anything that is ours.
For who am I and who are you to boast
in the presence of God offering Himself as a victim to God?
In the presence of God washing and wiping the feet of sinful man?
In the presence of God feeding us with His flesh
and offering us the chalice of His Blood?
Who am I and who are you to boast
on this the night of God's doing,
the night of the covenant?

At the beginning of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy
the deacon, turning to the priest, says:
"Father, it is time for the Lord to act!"
And so it is among us.
All is His doing, not ours.
It is time for the Lord to act!

"For us, no boasting,
but in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is health and life and resurrection to us,
by whom we are saved and set free (cf. Gal 6L14).

If any one of us is sick; He is health.
If any one of us is in the grip of death; He is life.
If any one of us has stumbled and fallen low,
once, twice, three times or more,
He is resurrection.

If you are bound up and fettered,
if you are pushed down, or held back,
or laden with burdens too heavy to bear,
He is deliverance and freedom.

If you are oppressed in sin's suffocating narrowness,
He takes you by the hand
and tonight, yes, tonight,
He leads you out into the vast and spacious place
of His own prayer to the Father.
"This, Father, is my desire,
that all those whom Thou hast entrusted to me
may be with me where I am,
so as to see my glory,
Thy gift made to me,
in that love which Thou didst bestow upon me
before the foundation of the world. (Jn 17:24).

This is the birthnight of Eucharistic adoration,
the night of a hushed amazement,
the night of believing disbelief,
and of wordless wonder.

This is the night of God at table with man.
Not only does this Companion-God sit at our board to share our bread:
he becomes Bread in every mouth.

This is the night of the Blood of the Lamb
drunk first by those whom He calls friends
and then drunk, drop after drop, by Gethsemani's ancient earth.
This is the birthday of the Chalice,
the first wave of that immense crimson tide
that tomorrow will gush from the pierced side.

This is the night of the astonishing humility of God.
the night of God bending low
to wash,
to kiss,
to perfume the very feet
that will run from the fearful garden in the night,
and from the proud praetorium,
and from the Cross terrible against dark and heavy skies.

"Before you run from me,
O you whom I have chosen to run after me,
let me wash your feet," He says,
"and mark them sweetly with the imprint of my kiss.
'You did not choose me, but I chose you'" (Jn 15:16).

"This kiss to your feet is the pledge of my paschal absolution.
My feet, you will see them pierced by a nail;
yours, I would pierce them with a kiss,
that turning, you would come back to me
who have come so far in search of you.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, turn back,
turn back to the Lord your God!"


Tonight our Priest begins his ascent:
the solemn procession to the high place of his preaching:
to the noble Tree
from which his voice will go out through all the earth.

Tonight our Priest, without leaving us,
enters the hidden sanctuary beyond the veil (Heb 6:19);
there He appears in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb 9:23),
taking not the blood of goats and calves
but his own Blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (Heb 9:12).

Tonight the Paschal Lamb is set before us.
Tonight His Blood is given us,
not to be smeared, as of old, on doorposts and lintels,
but to sanctify our lips
and moisten every parched tongue;
to warm every heart grown cold
with a libation of fire;
to give sweetness for bitterness,
and boldness for fear.

Those marked by the Blood of Lamb,
those with the Blood of the Lamb wet upon their lips
and fragrant on their breath
have passed from death to life.

Every mouth sanctified by the Blood
is, in the Father's eyes, the mouth of the First-Born Son.
Every prayer uttered from Blood-blessed lips,
every kiss offered,
every sigh and every groan,
the Father receives
as coming from the Son, the Only-Begotten, the Beloved.
"In that day you will know
that I am in the Father,
and you in me, and I in you" (Jn 14:20).

The psalmist too sang of the Chalice and of the Blood:
"I will lift up the chalice of salvation,
and call upon the name of the Lord" (Ps 115:13).
Lifted up, it is our thanksgiving: a sun blazing red against the sky.
Pressed to our lips, it is our salvation: the antidote, the remedy,
one drop of which is enough to cure this weary world of every ill,
to wash the defiled heart of every impurity,
to heal the hearts oldest and deepest wounds,
the very ones we thought incurable.

The Apostle handed on to us
what had had been handed on to him.
O humble and glorious Tradition!
Ours it is to receive what he received,
(to transmit and not to betray,)
to cherish what he cherished,
to obey the commandment he obeyed,
to adore the mystery he adored.

"This is My body which is for you.
Do this in remembrance of Me. . . .
This chalice is the new covenant in My Blood.
Do this, as often, as you drink it, in memory of Me" (1 Cor 11:24-25).

This is the night of the new priesthood.
Awed they are, not quite understanding and not quite misunderstanding
the fearful spectacle of God bent prostrate at their feet.
He, sinless, kneels to absolve the sinner
while the sinner, seated,
has nought to offer but two bare journey-worn feet
and the story they tell of paths they have trod,
and places they have been.

"What I am doing you do not know now,
but afterward you will understand . . . .
For I have given you an example,
that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13:7, 15).

Feet, these first priests of the New Covenant will wash,
but more than feet:
hearts caked with the hard crust of sin,
and polluted souls,
and faces bearing the traces of blood and tears.

Then we did not know what He was doing,
but now we understand the mystic absolution.
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven;
if you retain the sins of any they are retained" (Jn 20:22-23).

For us, no boasting but in what Love has left us:
the Bread and the Chalice
making present His Sacrifice;
and priests with feet washed clean and anointed hands
to pronounce the Absolution,
and to lift high the spotless Oblation.

And behind the sacramental veils
shines the Face for which we yearn:
the Face of immolated Purity,
the Face of Beauty humbled,
the Face of the Priest,
the Face of the Victim,
the Face of Holiness,
the Face of Crucified and Triumphant Love.

In looking, adore Him.
In adoring, look at Him.
And so, pass over
from what is old to what is new,
from the land of heavy burdens to the land of freedom,
from darkness to light,
from sin to holiness,
from groans to jubilations,
from tears to laughter,
from sorrow to bliss,
from combat to peace,
from struggle to rest,
from death to life
It is the Passover of the Lord (Ex 12:11).

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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