The Prayer of Christ

The earth—our earthly nature—should tremble at the suffering of its Redeemer. The rocks—the hearts of unbelievers—should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart. Foreshadowings of the future resurrection should appear in the holy city, the Church of God: what is to happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts.

No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ. His prayer brought benefit to the multitude that raged against him. How much more does it bring to those who turn to him in repentance.

…The body that lay lifeless in the tomb is ours. The body that rose again on the third day is ours. The body that ascended above all the heights of heaven to the right hand of the Father’s glory is ours. If then we walk in the way of his commandments, and are not ashamed to acknowledge the price he paid for our salvation in a lowly body, we too are to rise to share his glory. The promise he made will be fulfilled in the sight of all: Whoever acknowledges me before men, I too will acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven.

-Pope St. Leo the Great, from today’s Office of Readings


Holy Week Norms


In time of Covid-19 (II)

Considering the rapidly evolving situation of the Covid-19 pandemic and taking into account observations which have come from Episcopal Conferences, this Congregation now offers an update to the general indications and suggestions already given to Bishops in the preceding decree of 19 March 2020.

Given that the date of Easter cannot be transferred, in the countries which have been struck by the disease and where restrictions around the assembly and movement of people have been imposed, Bishops and priests may celebrate the rites of Holy Week without the presence of the people and in a suitable place, avoiding concelebration and omitting the sign of peace.

The faithful should be informed of the beginning times of the celebrations so that they can prayerfully unite themselves in their homes. Means of live (not recorded) telematic broadcasts can be of help. In any event it remains important to dedicate an adequate time to prayer, giving importance above all to the Liturgia Horarum.

The Episcopal Conferences and individual dioceses will see to it that resources are provided to support family and personal prayer.

1 – Palm Sunday. The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within sacred buildings; in Cathedral churches the second form given in the Roman Missal is to be adopted; in parish churches and in other places the third form is to be used.

2 – The Chrism Mass. Evaluating the concrete situation in different countries, the Episcopal Conferences will be able to give indications about a possible transfer to another date.

3 – Holy Thursday. The washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted. At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the procession is also omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle. On this day the faculty to celebrate Mass in a suitable place, without the presence of the people, is exceptionally granted to all priests.

4 – Good Friday. In the Universal Prayer, Bishops will arrange to have a special intention prepared for those who find themselves in distress, the sick, the dead, (cf. Missale Romanum). The adoration of the Cross by kissing it shall be limited solely to the celebrant.

5 – The Easter Vigil: Is to be celebrated only in Cathedral and parish churches. For the “Baptismal Liturgy” only the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises” is maintained (cf. Missale Romanum).

Seminaries, houses of clergy, monasteries and religious communities shall follow the indications of this decree.

Expressions of popular piety and processions which enrich the days of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum can be transferred to other suitable days in the year, for example 14 and 15 September, according to the judgement of the Diocesan Bishop.

De mandato Summi Pontificis pro hoc tantum anno 2020.

From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 25 March 2020, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

Robert Card. Sarah

✠ Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary

[00409-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]


“To Stand in Your Presence and Minister to You”

As we hear reports of scores of Italian priests who have died from the pandemic, very often because of service to others, these words from Pope Emeritus Benedict from his 2008 Chrism Mass homily, which he quotes on pages 51-53 of From the Depths of Our Hearts, ring triumphantly true.

Holy Thursday is an occasion for us to ask ourselves over and over again: to what did we say our “yes”? What does this “being a priest of Jesus Christ” mean? The Second Canon of our Missal, which was probably compiled in Rome already at the end of the second century, describes the essence of the priestly ministry with the words with which, in the Book of Deuteronomy (18: 5, 7), the essence of the Old Testament priesthood is described: astare coram te et tibi ministrare [“to stand and minister in the name of the Lord”]. There are therefore two duties that define the essence of the priestly ministry: in the first place, “to stand in his [the Lord’s] presence”. In the Book of Deuteronomy this is read in the context of the preceding disposition, according to which priests do not receive any portion of land in the Holy Land – they live of God and for God. They did not attend to the usual work necessary to sustain daily life. Their profession was to “stand in the Lord’s presence” – to look to him, to be there for him. Hence, ultimately, the word indicated a life in God’s presence, and with this also a ministry of representing others. As the others cultivated the land, from which the priest also lived, so he kept the world open to God, he had to live with his gaze on him. Now if this word is found in the Canon of the Mass immediately after the consecration of the gifts, after the entrance of the Lord in the assembly of prayer, then for us this points to being before the Lord present, that is, it indicates the Eucharist as the centre of priestly life. But here too, the meaning is deeper. During Lent the hymn that introduces the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours – the Office that monks once recited during the night vigil before God and for humanity – one of the duties of Lent is described with the imperative: arctius perstemus in custodia – we must be even more intensely alert. In the tradition of Syrian monasticism, monks were qualified as “those who remained standing”. This standing was an expression of vigilance. What was considered here as a duty of the monks, we can rightly see also as an expression of the priestly mission and as a correct interpretation of the word of Deuteronomy: the priest must be on the watch. He must be on his guard in the face of the imminent powers of evil.
He must keep the world awake for God. He must be the one who remains standing: upright before the trends of time. Upright in truth. Upright in the commitment for good. Being before the Lord must always also include, at its depths, responsibility for humanity to the Lord, who in his turn takes on the burden of all of us to the Father. And it must be a taking on of him, of Christ, of his word, his truth, his love. The priest must be upright, fearless and prepared to sustain even offences for the Lord, as referred to in the Acts of the Apostles: they were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name” (5: 41) of Jesus.


Laetare Sunday 2020

Those of us unable to attend Mass or receive Holy Communion this unusual Laetare Sunday may need to dig pretty deeply to find any meaning in this experience of desolation.

In many ways, today is like Good Friday–except that on Good Friday we can still participate in the mysteries by receiving Communion.

With a great deal of help I have come up with the following provisional meaning for myself. And as so often, my best teacher is St. Therese of Lisieux.

During the last year and a half of her life, throughout her last illness, St. Therese profoundly experienced the absence of God. Instead of her clear and lively faith, in which heaven appeared as self-evident as earthly things or even more real, her world was covered in cloud and shadow. She passed through a tunnel, making more acts of faith than in the rest of her years combined, but without any sense of feeling that her faith was true.

Remarkably, she found in this experience a sympathy for atheists. And it’s here that I think this Sunday can find its meaning.

From the cross the Lord cried out Psalm 22. He said this for all of us, to those who are far off and those who are near. He wants us all near to Him, and so many in our world are not. Some of them are dying today, under very difficult circumstances. In Hopkin’s words:

“…Heart, go and bleed at a bitterer vein for the
Comfortless unconfessed of them…”

For them, at this moment, in our experience of desolation, we can intercede with something like existential reality. We can really experience a solidarity with those who cannot, or will not, believe. As Pope Benedict XVI said of St. Therese, “The Carmelite was aware that she was living this great trial for the salvation of all the atheists of the modern world, whom she called “brothers”.”

If it’s not through our fault that we cannot share in the one cup, we can still share in His, and theirs, and help make up in ourselves “whatever is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col 1:24).


Within the quiet of a home

Within the quiet of a home
Let no one but the angels come,
Or travelers in their distress,
Or friends in holy righteousness.
Let every fam’ly live in peace
And let the grace of God increase.

O Jesus, born on Christmas night,
The Son of Mary, heaven’s Light,
Give us the grace we need each day
To follow in Your Father’s way:
The heav’nly Father, quick to bless,
Whose ev’ry act is faithfulness.

Then Father, bless each family
With faith and hope and charity,
That we may find our perfect Good
Whose bed was only hay and wood.
Saint Joseph, help all families stay
With Him you sheltered Christmas day.

Text by Kathleen Pluth
Copyright © 2005 CanticaNOVA Publications. Duplication restricted.

Meter: D Suggested tune: Sussex Carol, or others:

Angel’s Song Neumark (alt) Saint Petersburg

Melita Saint Catherine Stella