Thursday, April 17, 2014

Triduum: Holy Thursday

File:Última Cena - Juan de Juanes.jpg
The Last Supper, by Juan de Juanes, ca. 1562AD.

On this day, Thursday of Holy Week, we begin the Sacred Triduum and the holiest time of the entire year.

It is customary for the Bishop of each diocese to bless the Sacred Chrism for the coming year at a Mass this morning, with the priests of his diocese.  Hence, it is an opportune moment to recall the character of Chrism: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Chrism

Of course, this evening is the time of the Mass of the Last Supper, and of the Maundy, or that mandate of washing of the feet.

The Gospel of St. John describes the event thus in Chapter 13:
"Chapter 13:1 Before the paschal feast began, Jesus already knew that the time had come for his passage from this world to the Father. He still loved those who were his own, whom he was leaving in the world, and he would give them the uttermost proof of his love. 2 Supper was over, and the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, son of Simon, the Iscariot, to betray him. 3 Jesus knew well that the Father had left everything in his hands; knew it was from God that he came, and to God that he went. 4 And now, rising from supper, he laid his garments aside, took a towel, and put it about him; 5 and then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples, wiping them with the towel that girded him. 6 So, when he came to Simon Peter, Peter asked him, Lord, is it for thee to wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered him, It is not for thee to know, now, what I am doing; but thou wilt understand it afterwards. 8 Peter said to him, I will never let thee wash my feet; and Jesus answered him, If I do not wash thee, it means thou hast no companionship with me. 9 Then, Lord, said Peter, wash my hands and my head too, not only my feet. 10 But Jesus told him, A man who has bathed does not need to do more than wash the stains from his feet; he is clean all over. And you are clean now; only, not all of you.  11 He knew who his betrayer was; that is why he said, You are not all clean.  12 Then, when he had finished washing their feet and put on his garments, he sat down again, and said to them, Do you understand what it is I have done to you? 13 You hail me as the Master, and the Lord; and you are right, it is what I am. 14 Why then, if I have washed your feet, I who am the Master and the Lord, you in your turn ought to wash each other’s feet; 15 I have been setting you an example, which will teach you in your turn to do what I have done for you."

Our Lord would continue, and this evening we recall that Last Supper, and the institution of the Sacred Priesthood.

These sites all contain splendid insights and details on this most holy day:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Maundy Thursday

Fish Eaters: Maundy Thursday

Having finished his great discourse, Our Lord and His disciples departed to the Garden to pray.  The following timepiece is a wonderful aide for meditation on the events of this evening, night, and following morning:


Live well!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spy Wednesday & Luke's Passion


Spy Wednesday: Judas agrees to Betray Jesus -- notice the Black Demon behind Judas in this image.

On Wednesday of Holy Week -- Spy Wednesday -- it is traditional both the recall the betrayal of Christ by the Apostle Judas, and to read the account of the Passion according to St. Luke.

For more on the account and customs surrounding Spy Wednesday, and our recalling Judas agreeing to betray Our Divine Lord, you should consult:
Fish Eaters: Spy Wednesday

The Gospel of St. Matthew, in chapter 26, recalls the agreement of Judas to betray Our Lord: "26:14 And at that, one of the twelve, Judas who was called Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and asked them, What will you pay me for handing him over to you? Whereupon they laid down thirty pieces of silver. 16 And he, from that time onwards, looked about for an opportunity to betray him."  It is this that Spy Wednesday historically recalls, and which the image above pictures.

The Gospel of St. Luke is unique in both its particular details related to medicine, St. Luke being of that profession, and, of course, of its insight into the perspective our the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He describes the Passion of Christ in chapter 22 and 23 of his Gospel:
"Chapter 22:39 And now he went out, as his custom was, to mount Olivet, his disciples following him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, Pray that you may not enter into temptation. 41 Then he parted from them, going a stone’s throw off, and knelt down to pray; 42 Father, he said, if it pleases thee, take away this chalice from before me; only as thy will is, not as mine is. 43 And he had sight of an angel from heaven, encouraging him. And now he was in an agony, and prayed still more earnestly; 44 his sweat fell to the ground like thick drops of blood. 45 When he rose from his prayer, he went back to his disciples, and found that they were sleeping, overwrought with sorrow. 46 How can you sleep? he asked. Rise up and pray, so that you may not enter into temptation.

47 Even as he spoke, a multitude came near; their guide was the man called Judas, one of the twelve, who came close to Jesus, to kiss him. 48 Jesus said to him, Judas, wouldst thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss? 49 Then those who were about him, seeing what would come of it, asked, Lord, shall we strike out with our swords? 50 And one of them struck a servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. 51 Jesus answered, Let them have their way in this. And he touched his ear, and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and temple officers and elders who had come to find him, Have you come out with swords and clubs, as if I were a robber? 53 I was close to you in the temple, day after day, and you never laid hands on me. But your time has come now, and darkness has its will.

54 So they apprehended him, and led him away to the house of the high priest; and Peter followed at a long distance. 55 They had lit a fire in the midst of the court, and were sitting round it; and there Peter sat among them. 56 One of the maidservants, as she saw him sitting there in the firelight, looked closely at him and said, This is one of those who were with him. 57 And he disowned him; Woman, he said, I have no knowledge of him. 58 After a short while, another of the company said, when he caught sight of him, Thou too art one of them; and Peter said, Man, I am not.  59 Then there was an interval of about an hour, before another man insisted, It is the truth that this fellow was in his company; why, he is a Galilean. 60 Man, said Peter, I do not understand what thou meanest; and all at once, while the words were on his lips, the cock crew. 61 And the Lord turned, and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered what the Lord had said to him, Before cock-crow, thou wilt thrice disown me. 62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

63 The men who held Jesus prisoner beat him and mocked him; 64 they blindfolded him and struck him on the face, and then questioned him, Come, prophesy; tell us who it is that smote thee.[6] 65 And they used many other blasphemous words against him. 66 When day came, all the elders of the people, chief priests and scribes, brought him before their council; If thou art the Christ, they said, tell us. 67 Why, he said, if I tell you, you will never believe me: 68 and if I ask you questions, I know you will not answer them, nor acquit me. 69 I will only tell you that a time is coming when the Son of Man will be seated in power at God’s right hand. 70 And they all said, Thou art, then, the Son of God? He told them, Your lips have said that I am.  71 And they said, What further need have we of witnesses? We have heard the words from his own mouth.

Chapter 23:1 Then the whole assembly of them rose up and brought him before Pilate, 2 and there fell to accusing him; We have discovered, they said, that this man is subverting the loyalty of our people, forbids the payment of tribute to Caesar, and calls himself Christ the king. 3 And Pilate asked him, Art thou the king of the Jews? He answered him, Thy own lips have said it. 4 Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, I cannot discover any fault in this man. 5 But they insisted, He rouses sedition among the people; he has gone round the whole of Judaea preaching, beginning in Galilee and ending here. 6 Pilate, upon the mention of Galilee, asked whether the man was a Galilean; 7 and learning that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, remitted his cause to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at this time. 8 Herod was overjoyed at seeing Jesus; for a long time he had been eager to have sight of him, because he had heard so much of him, and now he hoped to witness some miracle of his. 9 He asked him many questions, but could get no answer from him, 10 although the chief priests and scribes stood there, loudly accusing him. 11 So Herod and his attendants made a jest of him, arraying him in festal attire out of mockery, and sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate, who had hitherto been at enmity with one another, became friends.

13 And now Pilate summoned the chief priests, and the rulers, and the people, 14 and said to them, You have brought this man before me as one who seduces the people from their allegiance; I examined him in your presence, and could find no substance in any of the charges you bring against him; 15 nor could Herod, when I referred you to him. It is plain that he has done nothing which deserves death. 16 I will scourge him, and then he shall go free. 17 At the festival, he was obliged to grant them the liberty of one prisoner: 18 but the whole concourse raised the cry, Away with this man; we must have Barabbas released. 19 (Barabbas was a man who had been thrown into prison for raising a revolt in the city, and for murder.) 20 Once more Pilate spoke to them, offering to set Jesus at liberty; 21 but they continued to answer with shouts of, Crucify him, crucify him. 22 Then for the third time he said to them, Why, what wrong has he done? I can find no fault in him that deserves death; I will scourge him, and then he shall go free. 23 But they, with loud cries, insisted on their demand that he should be crucified; and their voices carried the day; 24 Pilate gave his assent that their request should be granted, 25 releasing the man of their choice who had been imprisoned for revolt and murder, while he handed Jesus over to their will.

26 As they led him off, they caught hold of a man called Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and loaded him with the cross, so that he should carry it after Jesus. 27 Jesus was followed by a great multitude of the people, and also of women, who beat their breasts and mourned over him; 28 but he turned to them, and said, It is not for me that you should weep, daughters of Jerusalem; you should weep for yourselves and your children. 29 Behold, a time is coming when men will say, It is well for the barren, for the wombs that never bore children, and the breasts that never suckled them. 30 It is then that they will begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. 31 If it goes so hard with the tree that is still green, what will become of the tree that is already dried up?  32 Two others, who were criminals, were led off with him to be put to death. 33 And when they reached the place which is named after a skull, they crucified him there; and also the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. 34 Jesus meanwhile was saying, Father, forgive them; they do not know what it is they are doing. And they divided his garments among themselves by lot.

35 The people stood by, watching; and the rulers joined them in pouring scorn on him; He saved others, they said; if he is the Christ, God’s chosen, let him save himself. 36 The soldiers, too, mocked him, when they came and offered him vinegar, 37 by saying, If thou art the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 (A proclamation had been written up over him in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, This is the king of the Jews.) 39 And one of the two thieves who hung there fell to blaspheming against him; Save thyself, he said, and us too, if thou art the Christ. 40 But the other rebuked him; What, he said, hast thou no fear of God, when thou art undergoing the same sentence? 41 And we justly enough; we receive no more than the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing amiss. 42 Then he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said to him, I promise thee, this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.

44 It was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 The sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in the midst: 46 and Jesus said, crying with a loud voice, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and yielded up his spirit as he said it. 47 And the centurion, when he saw what befell, gave glory to God; This, he said, was indeed a just man.  48 And the whole multitude of those who stood there watching it, when they saw the issue, went home beating their breasts.

49 All his acquaintances, with the women who had followed him from Galilee, watched while this happened, standing at a distance. 50 And now a man called Joseph came forward, one of the councillors, a good and upright man, 51 who had not taken part with the council and its doings; he was from Arimathea, a Jewish city, and was one of those who waited for the kingdom of God. 52 He it was who approached Pilate, and asked to have the body of Jesus. 53 This he took, and wrapped it in a winding-sheet, and laid it in a tomb fashioned out of the rock, in which no man had ever been buried. 54 It was the day of preparation; the next day was the sabbath. 55 And the women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was buried; 56 so they went back, and prepared spices and ointments, and while it was the sabbath they kept still, as the law commanded."

Live well!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday of Holy Week: Mark's Passion

File:Vouet-crucifixion-lyon.jpg
The Crucifixion by Simon Vouet (+1649AD)

On this Tuesday of Holy Week, it is traditional to hear the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to St. Mark.

Today also happens to be that of a full moon -- and this is the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.  Thus, next Sunday is to be Easter.  That is the ancient method of determining the date of Easter Sunday.

St. Mark, the associate of St. Peter, and first Patriarch of Alexandria, writes a Gospel that is rather direct and Roman in its character.  He recounts the events of the Passion of Christ as follows, in chapters 14 and 15 of his Gospel:

"Chapter 14:32 So they came to a plot of land called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples, Sit down here, while I go and pray. 33 But he took Peter and James and John with him. And now he grew dismayed and distressed: 34 My soul, he said to them, is ready to die with sorrow; do you abide here, and keep watch. 35 So he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass him by: 36 Abba, Father, he said, all things are possible to thee; take away this chalice from before me; only as thy will is, not as mine is. 37 Then he went back, and found them asleep; and he said to Peter, Simon, art thou sleeping? Hadst thou not strength to watch even for an hour? 38 Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing enough, but the flesh is weak. 39 Then he went away and prayed again, using the same words. 40 And when he returned, once more he found them asleep, so heavy their eyelids were; and they did not know what answer to make to him. 41 When he came the third time, he said to them, Sleep and take your rest hereafter. Enough; the time has come; behold, the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise up, let us go on our way; already, he that is to betray me is close at hand.

43 And thereupon, while he was yet speaking, Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, came near; with him was a great multitude carrying swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 The traitor had appointed them a signal; It is none other, he said, than the man whom I shall greet with a kiss; hold him fast, and take him away under guard. 45 No sooner, then, had he come up than he went close to Jesus, saying, Hail, Master, and kissed him; 46 and with that they laid their hands on him, and held him fast. 47 And one of those who stood by drew his sword, and smote one of the high priest’s servants with it, cutting off his ear. 48 Then Jesus said to them aloud, You have come out to my arrest with swords and clubs, as if I were a robber; 49 and yet I used to teach in the temple close to you, day after day, and you never laid hands on me. But the scriptures must be fulfilled. 50 And now all his disciples abandoned him, and fled.  51 There was a young man there following him, who was wearing only a linen shirt on his bare body; and he, when they laid hold of him, 52 left the shirt in their hands, and ran away from them naked. 53 So they took Jesus into the presence of the high priest, and all the chief priests and elders and scribes were assembled about him.

54 Yet Peter followed at a long distance, right into the high priest’s palace, and there sat down with the servants by the fire, to warm himself. 55 The high priest and all the council tried to find an accusation against Jesus, such as would compass his death, but they could find none; 56 many accused him falsely, but their accusations did not agree. 57 There were some who stood up and falsely accused him thus: 58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made by men’s hands, and in three days I will build another, with no hand of man to help me.  59 But even so their accusations did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up, and asked Jesus, Hast thou no answer to the accusations these men bring against thee? 61 He was still silent, still did not answer; and the high priest questioned him again, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the blessed God? 62 Jesus said to him, I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God’s power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. 63 At this, the high priest tore his garments, and said, What further need have we of witnesses? 64 You have heard his blasphemy for yourselves; what is your finding? And they all pronounced against him a sentence of death. 65 Then some of them fell to spitting upon him, and covering his face while they buffeted him and bade him prophesy; the servants, too, caught him blows on the cheek.

66 Meanwhile, Peter was in the court without, and one of the maid-servants of the high priest came by; 67 she saw Peter warming himself, and said, looking closely at him, Thou too wast with Jesus the Nazarene. 68 Whereupon he denied it; I know nothing of it, I do not understand what thou meanest. Then he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. 69 Again the maid looked at him, and said to the bystanders, This is one of them.  70 And again he denied it. Then, a little while afterwards, the bystanders said to Peter, It is certain that thou art one of them; why, thou art a Galilean. 71 And he fell to calling down curses on himself and swearing, I do not know the man you speak of. 72 Then came the second cock-crow; and Peter remembered the word Jesus had said to him, Before the second cock-crow thou wilt thrice deny me. And all at once he burst out weeping.

Chapter 15:1 No sooner had day broken, than the chief priests made their plans, with the elders and scribes and the whole Council; they took Jesus away in bonds and gave him up to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? He answered him, Thy own lips have said it. 3 And now the chief priests brought many accusations against him, 4 and Pilate questioned him again, Dost thou make no answer? See what a weight of accusation they bring against thee. 5 But Jesus still would not answer him, so that Pilate was full of astonishment. 6 At the festival, he used to grant them the liberty of any one prisoner they chose; 7 and the man they called Barabbas was then in custody, with the rebels who had been guilty of murder during the rebellion. 8 So, when the multitude came up towards him, and began to ask for the customary favour, 9 Pilate answered them, Would you have me release the king of the Jews? 10 He knew well that the chief priests had only given him up out of malice. 11 But the chief priests incited the multitude to ask for the release of Barabbas instead. 12 Once more Pilate answered them, What would you have me do, then, with the king of the Jews? 13 And they made a fresh cry of, Crucify him. 14 Why, Pilate said to them, what wrong has he done? But they cried all the more, Crucify him. 15 And so Pilate, determined to humour the multitude, released Barabbas as they asked; Jesus he scourged, and gave him up to be crucified.

16 Then the soldiers led him away into the court of the palace, and gathered there the whole of their company. 17 They arrayed him in a scarlet cloak, and put round his head a crown which they had woven out of thorns, 18 and fell to greeting him with, Hail, king of the Jews. 19 And they beat him over the head with a rod, and spat upon him, and bowed their knees in worship of him. 20 At last they had done with mockery; stripping him of the scarlet cloak, they put his own garments on him, and led him away to be crucified.  21 As for his cross, they forced a passer-by who was coming in from the country to carry it, one Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 And so they took him to a place called Golgotha, which means, The place of a skull. 23 Here they offered him a draught of wine mixed with myrrh, which he would not take; 24 and then crucified him, dividing his garments among them by casting lots, to decide which should fall to each.

25 It was the third hour when they crucified him.  26 A proclamation of his offence was written up over him, The king of the Jews; 27 and with him they crucified two thieves, one on the right and the other on his left, 28 so fulfilling the words of scripture, And he was counted among the wrong-doers.  29 The passers-by blasphemed against him, shaking their heads; Come now, they said, thou who wouldst destroy the temple and build it up in three days, 30 come down from that cross, and rescue thyself. 31 In the same way, the chief priests and scribes said mockingly to one another, He saved others, he cannot save himself. 32 Let Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross, here and now, so that we can see it and believe in him. And the men who were crucified with him uttered taunts against him.

33 When the sixth hour came, there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour;  34 and at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani? which means, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  35 Hearing this, some of those who stood by said, Why, he is calling upon Elias. 36 And thereupon one of them ran off to fill a sponge with vinegar, and fixed it on a rod, and offered to let him drink; Wait, he said, Let us see whether Elias is to come and save him. 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry, and yielded up his spirit. 38 And the veil of the temple was torn this way and that, from the top to the bottom. 39 The centurion who stood in front of him, perceiving that he so yielded up his spirit with a cry, said, No doubt but this was the Son of God.

40 There were women there, who stood watching from far off; among them were Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 These used to follow him and minister to him when he was in Galilee, and there were many others who had come up with him to Jerusalem. 42 And now it was already evening; and because it was the day of preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,  43 a rich councillor, named Joseph of Arimathea, one of those who waited for God’s kingdom, boldly went to Pilate, and asked to have the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, called the centurion to him, to ask if he was dead already, 45 and when he heard the centurion’s report, gave Joseph the body. 46 Joseph took him down, and wrapped him in a winding-sheet which he had bought, and laid him in a tomb cut out of the rock, rolling a stone against the door of the tomb."

Live well!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday of Holy Week: Six Days Before...


Mary anointing the feet of Jesus.

It is on this day, the Monday of Holy Week, that we turn our attention to the very time and place of that Monday after Palm Sunday -- at Bethania, or Bethany, where Our Divine Lord had supper at the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, and his sisters, Martha and Mary.  The Gospel according to St. John notes that Christ was there "six days before the Pasch," which would have been that Monday.

What transpires is described in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of St. John:
"1 Six days before the paschal feast, Jesus went to Bethany. Bethany was the home of Lazarus, the dead man whom Jesus raised to life. 2 And a feast was made for him there, at which Martha was waiting at table, while Lazarus was one of his fellow guests. 3 And now Mary brought in a pound of pure spikenard ointment, which was very precious, and poured it over Jesus’ feet, wiping his feet with her hair; the whole house was scented with the ointment. 4 One of his disciples, the same Judas Iscariot who was to betray him, said when he saw it, 5 Why should not this ointment have been sold? It would have fetched three hundred silver pieces, and alms might have been given to the poor. 6 He said this, not from any concern for the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse, and took what was put into it. 7 And Jesus said, Let her alone; enough that she should keep it for the day when my body is prepared for burial. 8 You have the poor among you always; I am not always among you.  9 A great number of the Jews heard that he was there and went out there, not only on account of Jesus, but so as to have sight of Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead."

Here we have a splendid precedent for giving splendid and fitting honor to almighty God, not using the excuse of alms for the poor to shortchange the worship of God -- for, indeed, beautiful and dignified worship can be shared by the poor as well.  What a treasure is the magnificent cathedral or basilica for even the lowest amongst us -- how else would such a person ever enjoy an atmosphere or prayer, calm, and beauty in the presence of God?  How often does the hypocrite, like Judas, attack the Church in the name of the poor; he who does so little to help the poor compared to the Church -- yet is all too willing to live in personal luxury.

There is no conflict in giving splendid worship to God, and adorning his consecrated house, and giving charity to the poor.  Indeed, the two should be intertwined -- and the same Church that does more for the poor of the world, is also the fitting origin of the greatest masterpieces of art and architecture.  The Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful -- all these fit together.  To cheat God of His worship in the name of the poor, is to impoverish all.

Live well!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday & Holy Week

File:Assisi-frescoes-entry-into-jerusalem-pietro lorenzetti.jpg
Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti, ca. 1320AD. Assisi, Umbria.

Today is the Sunday that opens Holy Week -- Palm Sunday.  It was on this day that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, ended Jerusalem to great acclaim -- Hosanna Filio David! -- and saw the streets covered with palms at His approach.

The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 21:1-9, describes the scene thus:
"1 When they were near Jerusalem, and had reached Bethphage, which is close to mount Olivet, Jesus sent two of his disciples on an errand; 2 Go into the village that faces you, he told them, and the first thing you will find there will be a she-ass tethered, and a foal at her side; untie them and bring them to me. 3 And if anyone speaks to you about it, tell him, The Lord has need of them, and he will let you have them without more ado.4 All this was so ordained, to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet: 5 Tell the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy king is coming to thee, humbly, riding on an ass, on a colt whose mother has borne the yoke.  6 The disciples went and did as Jesus told them; 7 they brought the she-ass and its colt, and saddled them with their garments, and bade Jesus mount. 8 Most of the multitude spread their garments along the way, while others strewed the way with branches cut down from the trees. 9 And the multitudes that went before him and that followed after him cried aloud, Hosanna for the son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in heaven above"

These two sites present some splendid historical and cultural details regarding this day:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Palm Sunday

Fish Eaters: Palm Sunday

Holy Week, of course, marks the high point of the entire Church calendar, and culminates with the Sacred Triduum.  For more on this solemn week, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Holy Week

It is a wonderful occasion to recall the great chant the Gloria laus, presented in this video:





The great liturgical commentator, Dom Prosper Gueranger, comments as follows on Palm Sunday in his Liturgical Year:
"from Dom Gueranger's "The Liturgical Year"
Early in the morning of this day, Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, leaving Mary His Mother, and the two sisters Martha and Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, at Bethania. The Mother of sorrows trembles at seeing her Son thus expose Himself to danger, for His enemies are bent upon His destruction; but it is not death, it is triumph, that Jesus is to receive to-day in Jerusalem. The Messias, before being nailed to the cross, is to be proclaimed King by the people of the great city; the little children are to make her streets echo with their Hosanna to the Son of David; and this in presence of the soldiers of Rome's emperor, and of the high priests and pharisees: the first standing under the banner of their eagles; the second, dumb with rage.

The prophet Zachary had foretold this triumph which the Son of Man was to receive a few days before His Passion, and which had been prepared for Him from all eternity. ' Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion! Shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King will come to thee; the Just and the Saviour. He is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.' Jesus, knowing that the hour has come for the fulfilment of this prophecy, singles out two from the rest of His disciples, and bids them lead to Him an ass and her colt, which they would find not far off. He has reached Bethphage, on Mount Olivet. The two disciples lose no time in executing the order given them by their divine Master; and the ass and the colt are soon brought to the place where He stands.

The holy fathers have explained to us the mystery of these two animals. The ass represents the Jewish people, which had been long under the yoke of the Law; the colt, upon which, as the evangelist says, no man yet hath sat, is a figure of the Gentile world, which no one had ever yet brought into subjection. The future of these two peoples is to be decided a few days hence: the Jews will be rejected, for having refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias; the Gentiles will take their place, to be adopted as God's people, and become docile and faithful.

The disciples spread their garments upon the colt; and our Saviour, that the prophetic figure might be fulfilled, sits upon him, and advances towards Jerusalem. As soon as it is known that Jesus is near the city, the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those Jews, who have come from all parts to celebrate the feast of the Passover. They go out to meet our Lord, holding palm branches in their hands, and loudly proclaiming Him to be King. They that have accompanied Jesus from Bethania, join the enthusiastic crowd. Whilst some spread their garments on the way, others cut down boughs from the palm-trees, and strew them along the road. Hosanna is the triumphant cry, proclaiming to the whole city that Jesus, the Son of David, has made His entrance as her King.

Thus did God, in His power over men's hearts, procure a triumph for His Son, and in the very city which, a few days later, was to clamour for His Blood. This day was one of glory to our Jesus, and the holy Church would have us renew, each year, the memory of this triumph of the Man-God. Shortly after the birth of our Emmanuel, we saw the Magi coming from the extreme east, and looking in Jerusalem for the King of the Jews, to whom they intended offering their gifts and their adorations: but it is Jerusalem herself that now goes forth to meet this King. Each of these events is an acknowledgment of the kingship of Jesus; the first, from the Gentiles; the second, from the Jews. Both were to pay Him this regal homage, before He suffered His Passion. The inscription to be put upon the cross, by Pilate's order, will express the kingly character of the Crucified: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate, the Roman governor, the pagan, the base coward, has been unwittingly the fulfiller of a prophecy; and when the enemies of Jesus insist on the inscription being altered, Pilate will not deign to give them any answer but this: ' What I have written, I have written.' To-day, it is the Jews themselves that proclaim Jesus to be their King: they will soon be dispersed, in punishment for their revolt against the Son of David; but Jesus is King, and will be so for ever. Thus were literally verified the words spoken by the Archangel to Mary, when he announced to her the glories of the Child that was to be born of her: ' The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David, His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.' Jesus begins His reign upon the earth this very day; and though the first Israel is soon to disclaim His rule, a new Israel, formed from the faithful few of the old, shall rise up in every nation of the earth, and become the kingdom of Christ, a kingdom such as no mere earthly monarch ever coveted in his wildest fancies of ambition.

This is the glorious mystery which ushers in the great week, the week of dolours. Holy Church would have us give this momentary consolation to our heart, and hail our Jesus as our King. She has so arranged the service of to-day, that it should express both joy and sorrow; joy, by uniting herself with the loyal hosannas of the city of David; and sorrow, by compassionating the Passion of her divine Spouse. The whole function is divided into three parts, which we will now proceed to explain.

The first is the blessing of the palms; and we may have an idea of its importance from the solemnity used by the Church in this sacred rite. One would suppose that the holy Sacrifice has begun, and is going to be offered up in honour of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, even a Preface, are said, as though we were, as usual, preparing for the immolation of the spotless Lamb; but, after the triple Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! the Church suspends these sacrificial formulas, and turns to the blessing of the palms. The prayers she uses for this blessing are eloquent and full of instruction; and, together with the sprinkling with holy water and the incensation, impart a virtue to these branches, which elevates them to the supernatural order, and makes them means for the sanctification of our soul and the protection of our persons and dwellings. The faithful should hold these palms in their hands during the procession, and during the reading of the Passion at Mass, and keep them in their homes as an outward expression of their faith, and as a pledge of God's watchful love.

It is scarcely necessary to tell our reader that the palms or olive branches, thus blessed, are carried in memory of those wherewith the people of Jerusalem strewed the road, as our Saviour made His triumphant Entry; but a word on the antiquity of our ceremony will not be superfluous. It began very early in the east. It is probable that, as far as Jerusalem itself is concerned, the custom was established immediately after the ages of persecution. St. Cyril, who was bishop of that city in the fourth century, tells us that the palm-tree, from which the people cut the branches when they went out to meet our Saviour, was still to be seen in the vale of Cedron. Such a circumstance would naturally suggest an annual commemoration of the great event. In the. following century, we find this ceremony established, not only in the churches of the east, but also in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria. At the beginning of Lent, many of the holy monks obtained permission from their abbots to retire into the desert, that they might spend the sacred season in strict seclusion; but they were obliged to return to their monasteries for Palm Sunday, as we learn from the life of Saint Euthymius, written by his disciple Cyril. In the west, the introduction of this ceremony was more gradual; the first trace we find of it is in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, that is, at the end of the sixth, or the beginning of the seventh, century. When the faith had penetrated into the north, it was not possible to have palms or olive branches; they were supplied by branches from other trees. The beautiful prayers used in the blessing, and based on the mysteries expressed by the palm and olive trees, are still employed in the blessing of our willow, box, or other branches; and rightly, for these represent the symbolical ones which nature has denied us.

The second of to-day's ceremonies is the procession, which comes immediately after the blessing of the palms. It represents our Saviour's journey to Jerusalem, and His entry into the city. To make it the more expressive, the branches that have just been blessed are held in the hand during it. With the Jews, to hold a branch in one's hand was a sign of joy. The divine law had sanctioned this practice, as we read in the following passage from Leviticus, where God commands His people to keep the feast of tabernacles: And you shall take to you, on the first day, the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. It was, therefore, to testify their delight at seeing Jesus enter within their walls, that the inhabitants, even the little children, of Jerusalem, went forth to meet Him with palms in their hands. Let us, also, go before our King, singing our hosannas to Him as the conqueror of death, and the liberator of His people.

During the middle ages, it was the custom, in many churches, to carry the book of the holy Gospels in this procession. The Gospel contains the words of Jesus Christ, and was considered to represent Him. The procession halted at an appointed place, or station: the deacon then opened the sacred volume, and sang from it the passage which describes our Lord's entry into Jerusalem. This done, the cross which, up to this moment, was veiled, was uncovered; each of the clergy advanced towards it, venerated it, and placed at its foot a small portion of the palm he held in his hand. The procession then returned, preceded by the cross, which was left unveiled until all had re-entered the church. In England and Normandy, as far back as the eleventh century, there was practised a holy ceremony which represented, even more vividly than the one we have just been describing, the scene that was witnessed on this day at Jerusalem: the blessed Sacrament was carried in procession. The heresy of Berengarius, against the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, had been broached about that time; and the tribute of triumphant joy here shown to the sacred Host was a distant preparation for the feast and procession which were to be instituted at a later period.

A touching ceremony was also practised in Jerusalem during to-day's procession, and, like those just mentioned, was intended to commemorate the event related by the Gospel. The whole community of the Franciscans (to whose keeping the holy places are entrusted) went in the morning to Bethphage. There, the father guardian of the holy Land, being vested in pontifical robes, mounted upon an ass, on which garments were laid. Accompanied by the friars and the Catholics of Jerusalem, all holding palms in their hands, he entered the city, and alighted at the church of the holy sepulchre where Mass was celebrated with all possible solemnity.

This beautiful ceremony, which dated from the period of the Latin kingdom in Jerusalem, has been forbidden for now almost two hundred years, by the Turkish authorities of the city.

We have mentioned these different usages, as we have doneothers on similar occasions, in order to aid the faithful to the better understanding of the several mysteries of the liturgy. In the present instance, they will learn that, in to-day's procession, the Church wishes us to honour Jesus Christ as though He were really among us, and were receiving the humble tribute of our loyalty. Let us lovingly go forth to meet this our King, our Saviour, who comes to visit the daughter of Sion, as the prophet has just told us. He is in our midst; it is to Him that we pay honour with our palms: let us give Him our hearts too. He comes that He may be our King; let us welcome Him as such, and fervently cry out to Him: 'Hosanna to the Son of David!'

At the close of the procession a ceremony takes place, which is full of the sublimest symbolism. On returning to the church, the doors are found to be shut. The triumphant procession is stopped; but the songs of joy are continued. A hymn in honour of Christ our King is sung with its joyous chorus ; and at length the subdeacon strikes the door with the staff of the cross; the door opens, and the people, preceded by the clergy, enter the church, proclaiming the praise of Him, who is our resurrection and our life.

This ceremony is intended to represent the entry of Jesus into that Jerusalem of which the earthly one was but the figure--the Jerusalem of heaven, which has been opened for us by our Saviour. The sin of our first parents had shut it against us; but Jesus, the King of glory, opened its gates by His cross, to which every resistance yields. Let us, then, continue to follow in the footsteps of the Son of David, for He is also the Son of God, and He invites us to share His kingdom with Him. Thus, by the procession, which is commemorative of what happened on this day, the Church raises up our thoughts to the glorious mystery of the Ascension, whereby heaven was made the close of Jesus' mission on earth. Alas l the interval between these two triumphs of our Redeemer are not all days of joy; and no sooner is our procession over, than the Church, who had laid aside for a moment the weight of her grief, falls back into sorrow and mourning.

The third part of to-day's service is the offering of the holy Sacrifice. The portions that are sung by the choir are expressive of the deepest desolation; and the history of our Lord's Passion, which is now to be read by anticipation, gives to the rest of the day that character of sacred gloom, which we all know so well. For the last five or six centuries, the Church has adopted a special chant for this narrative of the holy Gospel. The historian, or the evangelist, relates the events in a tone that is at once grave and pathetic; the words of our Saviour are sung to a solemn yet sweet melody, which strikingly contrasts with the high dominant of the several other interlocutors and the Jewish populace. During the singing of the Passion, the faithful should hold their palms in their hands, and, by this emblem of triumph, protest against the insults offered to Jesus by His enemies. As we listen to each humiliation and suffering, all of which were endured out of love for us, let us offer Him our palm as to our dearest Lord and King. When should we be more adoring, than when He is most suffering?

These are the leading features of this great day. According to our usual plan, we will add to the prayers and lessons any instructions that seem to be needed.

This Sunday, besides its liturgical and popular appellation of Palm Sunday, has had several other names. Thus it was called Hosanna Sunday, in allusion to the acclamation wherewith the Jews greeted Jesus on His entry into Jerusalem. Our forefathers used also to call it Pascha Floridum, because the feast of the Pasch (or Easter), which is but eight days off, is to-day in bud, so to speak, and the faithful could begin from this Sunday to fulfil the precept of Easter Communion. It was in allusion to this name, that the Spaniards, having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, called it Florida. We also find the name of Capitilavium given to this Sunday, because, during those times when it was the custom to defer till Holy Saturday the baptism of infants horn during the preceding months (where such a delay entailed no danger), the parents used, on this day, to wash the heads of these children, out of respect to the holy chrism wherewith they were to be anointed. Later on, this Sunday was, at least in some churches, called the Pasch of the competent,, that is, of the catechumens, who were admitted to Baptism; they assembled to-day in the church, and received a special instruction on the symbol, which had been given to them in the previous scrutiny. In the Gothic Church of Spain, the symbol was not given till to-day. The Greeks call this Sunday Baïphoros, that is, Palm-bearing.
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It is traditional on this day to read the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew.  As such, I present it here, from Chapters 26 through 27:
"Chapter 26:26 And while they were still at table, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my body. 27 Then he took a cup, and offered thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink, all of you, of this; 28 for this is my blood, of the new testament, shed for many, to the remission of sins. 29 And I tell you this, I shall not drink of this fruit of the vine again, until I drink it with you, new wine, in the kingdom of my Father. 30 And so they sang a hymn, and went out to mount Olivet. 31 After this, Jesus said to them, To-night you will all lose courage over me; for so it has been written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of his flock will be scattered.  32 But I will go on before you into Galilee, when I have risen from the dead. 33 Peter answered him, Though all else should lose courage over thee, I will never lose mine. 34 Jesus said to him, Believe me, this night, before the cock crows, thou wilt thrice disown me. 35 Peter said to him, I will never disown thee, though I must lay down my life with thee. And all the rest of his disciples said the like.

36 So Jesus came, and they with him, to a plot of land called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples, Sit down here, while I go in there and pray. 37 But he took Peter and the sons of Zebedee with him. And now he grew sorrowful and dismayed; 38 My soul, he said, is ready to die with sorrow; do you abide here, and watch with me. 39 When he had gone a little further, he fell upon his face in prayer, and said, My Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass me by; only as thy will is, not as mine is. 40 Then he went back to his disciples, to find them asleep; and he said to Peter, Had you no strength, then, to watch with me even for an hour? 41 Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing enough, but the flesh is weak. 42 Then he went back again, and prayed a second time; and his prayer was, My Father, if this chalice may not pass me by, but I must drink it, then thy will be done. 43 And once more he found his disciples asleep when he came to them, so heavy their eyelids were; 44 this time he went away without disturbing them, and made his third prayer, using the same words. 45 After that he returned to his disciples, and said to them, Sleep and take your rest hereafter; as I speak, the time draws near when the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.  46 Rise up, let us go on our way; already, he that is to betray me is close at hand.

47 And all at once, while he was speaking, Judas, who was one of the twelve, came near; with him was a great multitude carrying swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 The traitor had appointed them a signal; It is none other, he told them, than the man whom I shall greet with a kiss; hold him fast. 49 No sooner, then, had he come near to Jesus than he said, Hail, Master, and kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, My friend, on what errand hast thou come? Then they came forward and laid their hands on Jesus, and held him fast. 51 And at that, one of those who were with Jesus lifted a hand to draw his sword, and smote one of the high priest’s servants with it, cutting off his ear. 52 Whereupon Jesus said to him, Put thy sword back into its place; all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Dost thou doubt that if I call upon my Father, even now, he will send more than twelve legions of angels to my side? 54 But how, were it so, should the scriptures be fulfilled, which have prophesied that all must be as it is? 55 And Jesus said to the multitude at that hour, You have come out to my arrest with swords and clubs, as if I were a robber; and yet I used to sit teaching in the temple close to you, day after day, and you never laid hands on me. 56 All this was so ordained, to fulfil what was written by the prophets. And now all his disciples abandoned him, and fled.  57 And those who had arrested Jesus led him away into the presence of the high priest, Caiphas, where the scribes and the elders had assembled.

58 Yet Peter followed him at a long distance, as far as the high priest’s palace; where he went in and sat among the servants, to see the end. 59 The chief priests and elders and all the Council tried to find false testimony against Jesus, such as would compass his death. 60 But they could find none, although many came forward falsely accusing him; until at last two false accusers came forward 61 who declared, This man said, I have power to destroy the temple of God and raise it again in three days.  62 Then the high priest stood up, and asked him, Hast thou no answer to make to the accusations these men bring against thee? 63 Jesus was silent; and the high priest said to him openly, I adjure thee by the living God to tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God? 64 Jesus answered, Thy own lips have said it. And moreover I tell you this; you will see the Son of Man again, when he is seated at the right hand of God’s power, and comes on the clouds of heaven. 65 At this, the high priest tore his garments, and said, He has blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? Mark well, you have heard his blasphemy for yourselves. 66 What is your finding? And they answered, The penalty is death. 67 Then they fell to spitting upon his face and buffeting him and smiting him on the cheek, 68 saying as they did so, Shew thyself a prophet, Christ; tell us who it is that smote thee.

69 Meanwhile, Peter sat in the court without; and there a maid-servant came up to him, and said, Thou too wast with Jesus the Galilean. 70 Whereupon he denied it before all the company; I do not know what thou meanest. 71 And he went out into the porch, where a second maid-servant saw him, and said, to the bystanders, This man, too, was with Jesus the Nazarene. 72 And he made denial again with an oath, I know nothing of the man. 73 But those who stood there came up to Peter soon afterwards, and said, It is certain that thou art one of them; even thy speech betrays thee. 74 And with that he fell to calling down curses on himself and swearing, I know nothing of the man; and thereupon the cock crew. 75 Then Peter remembered the word of Jesus, how he had said, Before the cock crows, thou wilt thrice disown me; and he went out, and wept bitterly.

Chapter 27:1 At day-break, all the chief priests and elders of the people laid their plans for putting Jesus to death, 2 and they led him away in bonds, and gave him up to the governor, Pontius Pilate. 3 And now Judas, his betrayer, was full of remorse at seeing him condemned, so that he brought back to the chief priests and elders their thirty pieces of silver; 4 I have sinned, he told them, in betraying the blood of an innocent man. What is that to us? they said. It concerns thee only. 5 Whereupon he left them, throwing down the pieces of silver there in the temple, and went and hanged himself. 6 The chief priests, thus recovering the money, said, It must not be put in the treasury, since it is the price of blood; 7 and after consultation, they used it to buy the potter’s field, as a burial place for strangers; 8 it is upon that account that the field has been called Haceldama, the field of blood, to this day.  9 And so the word was fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet Jeremy, when he said, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of one who was appraised, for men of the race of Israel appraised him, 10 and bestowed them upon the potter’s field, as the Lord had bidden me.

11 But Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked him, Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus told him, Thy own lips have said it. 12 And when the chief priests and elders brought their accusation against him, he made no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, Dost thou not hear all the testimony they bring against thee? 14 But Jesus would not answer any of their charges, so that the governor was full of astonishment. 15 At the festival, the governor used to grant to the multitude the liberty of any one prisoner they should choose;  16 and there was one notable prisoner then in custody, whose name was Barabbas; 17 so, when they gathered about him, Pilate asked them, Whom shall I release? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ? 18 He knew well that they had only given him up out of malice; 19 and even as he sat on the judgement-seat, his wife had sent him a message, Do not meddle with this innocent man; I dreamed to-day that I suffered much on his account. 20 But the chief priests and elders had persuaded the multitude to ask for Barabbas and have Jesus put to death; 21 and so, when the governor openly asked them, Which of the two would you have me release? they said, Barabbas. 22 Pilate said to them, What am I to do, then, with Jesus, who is called Christ? They said, Let him be crucified. 23 And when the governor said, Why, what wrong has he done? they cried louder than ever, Let him be crucified. 24 And so, finding that his good offices went for nothing, and the uproar only became worse, Pilate sent for water and washed his hands in full sight of the multitude, saying as he did so, I have no part in the death of this innocent man; it concerns you only. 25 And the whole people answered, His blood be upon us, and upon our children. 26 And with that he released Barabbas as they asked; Jesus he scourged, and gave him up to be crucified.

27 After this, the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the palace, and gathered the whole of their company about him. 28 First they stripped him, and arrayed him in a scarlet cloak; 29 then they put on his head a crown which they had woven out of thorns, and a rod in his right hand, and mocked him by kneeling down before him, and saying, Hail, king of the Jews. 30 And they spat upon him, and took the rod from him and beat him over the head with it. 31 At last they had done with mockery; stripping him of the scarlet cloak, they put his own garments on him, and led him away to be crucified. 32 As for his cross, they forced a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, whom they met on their way out, to carry it; 33 and so they reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place named after a skull. 34 Here they offered him a draught of wine, mixed with gall, which he tasted, but would not drink, 35 and then crucified him, dividing his garments among them by casting lots. The prophecy must be fulfilled, They divide my spoils among them, cast lots for my garments.

36 There, then, they sat, keeping guard over him. 37 Over his head they set a written proclamation of his offence, This is Jesus, the king of the Jews; 38 and with him they crucified two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. 39 The passers-by blasphemed against him, tossing their heads; 40 Come now, they said, thou who wouldst destroy the temple and build it up in three days, rescue thyself; come down from that cross, if thou art the Son of God. 41 The chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him in the same way. 42 He saved others, they said, he cannot save himself. If he is the king of Israel, he has but to come down from the cross, here and now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusted in God; let God, if he favours him, succour him now; he told us, I am the Son of God.  44 Even the thieves who were crucified with him uttered the same taunts.

45 From the sixth hour onwards there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour;  46 and about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lamma sabachthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  47 Hearing this, some of those who stood by said, He is calling upon Elias: 48 and thereupon one of them ran to fetch a sponge, which he filled with vinegar and fixed upon a rod, and offered to let him drink; 49 the rest said, Wait, let us see whether Elias is to come and save him. 50 Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. 51 And all at once, the veil of the temple was torn this way and that from the top to the bottom, and the earth shook, and the rocks parted asunder; 52 and the graves were opened, and many bodies arose out of them, bodies of holy men gone to their rest: 53 who, after his rising again, left their graves and went into the holy city, where they were seen by many. 54 So that the centurion and those who kept guard over Jesus with him, when they perceived the earthquake and all that befell, were overcome with fear; No doubt, they said, but this was the Son of God.

55 Many women stood watching from far off; they had followed Jesus from Galilee, to minister to him; 56 among them were Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. 57 And now it was evening, and a man came forward, by name Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea, who followed Jesus as a disciple like the rest; 58 he it was who approached Pilate, and asked to have the body of Jesus; whereupon Pilate ordered that the body should be given up. 59 Joseph took possession of the body, and wrapped it in a clean winding-sheet; 60 then he buried it in a new grave, which he had fashioned for himself out of the rock, and left it there, rolling a great stone against the grave-door. 61 When he had gone, there were two who sat on there opposite the tomb, Mary Magdalen and the other Mary with her.

62 Next day, the next after the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered in Pilate’s presence, 63 and said, Sir, we have recalled it to memory that this deceiver, while he yet lived, said, I am to rise again after three days. 64 Give orders, then, that his tomb shall be securely guarded until the third day; or perhaps his disciples will come and steal him away. If they should then say to the people, He has risen from the dead, this last deceit will be more dangerous than the old. 65 Pilate said to them, You have guards; away with you, make it secure as you best know how. 66 And they went and made the tomb secure, putting a seal on the stone and setting a guard over it."

Live well!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Passiontide is upon us!



Tomorrow, the 5th Sunday of Lent, begins what is traditionally the period of Passiontide, and the final two weeks of Lent -- Passion week first, followed by Holy Week itself.

Here are a couple articles on this season within the season of Lent:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Passiontide

Fisheaters: Passiontide


It is ancient custom to veil sacred images and statues beginning on this Sunday, only to reveal them once again during the course of the Triduum.  The custom fits well with the end of the traditional Gospel passage of the day -- from the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 8, when, at His claim of divinity, the Jews: "took up stones therefore to cast at Him: but Jesus his Himself, and went out of the temple."

So it is that our sacred images are veiled.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has a good explanation of the symbolism of that custom, and the idea of this season:
"In the 1962 Missale Romanum, the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite, this is First Passion Sunday. In the Novus Ordo we also call Palm Sunday “Passion” Sunday. Today is the beginning of “Passiontide”. It is known as Iudica Sunday, from the first word of the Introit of Mass, from Ps 42 (41).

We lose things during Lent. We are being pruned through the liturgy. Holy Church experiences liturgical death before the feast of the Resurrection. The Alleluia goes on Septuagesima. Music and flowers go on Ash Wednesday. Today, statues and images are draped in purple. That is why today is sometimes called Repus Sunday, from repositus analogous to absconditus or “hidden”, because this is the day when Crosses and other images in churches are veiled. The universal Church’s Ordo published by the Holy See has an indication that images can be veiled from this Sunday, the 5th of Lent. Traditionally Crosses may be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and images, such as statues may be covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. At my home parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN, the large statue of the Pietà is appropriately unveiled at the Good Friday service.

Also, as part of the pruning, as of today in the older form of Mass, the “Iudica” psalm in prayers at the foot of the altar and the Gloria Patri at the end of certain prayers was no longer said.

The pruning cuts more deeply as we march into the Triduum. After the Mass on Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the main altar, which itself is stripped and bells are replaced with wooden noise makers. On Good Friday there isn’t even a Mass. At the beginning of the Vigil we are deprived of light itself! It is as if the Church herself were completely dead with the Lord in His tomb. This liturgical death of the Church reveals how Christ emptied Himself of His glory in order to save us from our sins and to teach us who we are.

The Church then gloriously springs to life again at the Vigil of Easter. In ancient times, the Vigil was celebrated in the depth of night. In the darkness a single spark would be struck from flint and spread into the flames. The flames spread through the whole Church.
  
If we can connect ourselves in heart and mind with the Church’s liturgy in which these sacred mysteries are re-presented, then by our active receptivity we become participants in the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. To begin this active receptivity we must be baptized members of the Church and be in the state of grace."
cf., http://wdtprs.com/blog/2009/03/passiontide-veils/

Live well!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bellarmine on Last Rites (16)




Today is Laetare Sunday, named, of course, for the first words of the Introit of the Mass for this day.  This Sunday is one of muted rejoicing in the midst of the penitential season of Lent; festive rose vestments can be worn, the organ can be more freely used, and several other disciplines are relaxed on this Sunday that falls just beyond the mid-point of Lent.  We are more than half-way to Easter from our start on Ash Wednesday!  Rejoice!


Read more about Laetare Sunday here:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Laetare Sunday


Fisheaters: Laetare Sunday


St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J. (+1621), Jesuit, Cardinal, and Doctor of the Church, wrote Ars bene moriendi, the Art of Dying Well, in 1619AD. Today I continue my presentation of this work, as I plan each Sunday, which now brings us to Chapter 16, on the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, or Last Rites.  While one would expect a brief account here, St. Robert magnificently describes the role of the five senses in the moral life -- recalling the anointing of the Sacrament that symbolizing the purifications of those senses.  Excellent, and challenging, advice is contained in this final installment of mine.



St. Robert Bellarmine (+1621AD)

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CHAPTER XVI. THE SIXTEENTH PRECEPT, ON THE SACRAMENT OF EXTREME UNCTION

 
THERE now remains the last sacrament to speak of, Extreme Unction; from this may be derived most useful lessons, not only for our last hour, but for the whole course of our life For in this Sacrament are anointed all those parts of the body in which the five senses reside, and in the anointing of each of them it is said: "May our Lord forgive thee whatever thou mayest have committed by thy sight, hearing, &c." Hence we see, that these senses are as it were five gates, through which all kinds of sin can enter into the soul. If then we carefully guard these gates, we shall easily avoid a multitude of sins, and therefore shall be enabled to live well and die well.

 

We will now speak briefly on guarding these five gates. That the eye is a gate through which enter sins against chastity, our Saviour teaches us when He says: "But I say to you, that whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body go into hell." (St. Matthew v. 28.) We know that the old men who saw Susanna naked, were immediately inflamed with evil desires of lust, and in consequence suffered a miserable death. We know also how David, the particular friend of God, from merely seeing Bethsabee washing herself, fell into adultery, and from that into murder, and innumerable other evils.

 

Reason itself convinces us of this truth; for the beauty of a woman compels, in a manner, a man to love her; and the beauty of a man compels the woman: nor does this love rest till it ends in carnal embraces, on account of the concupiscence derived to us from original sin. This evil the holy apostle Paul deplores, where he says: "But I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ? The grace of God by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Epist. To Romans, vii. 23.)

 

What remedy is there against so grievous a temptation? The remedy is quick and easy with the assistance of God, if we wish to make use of it. St. Augustine mentions a remedy in his 109th Epistle, which contains rules for monks; the holy father thus speaks: " If you cast your eyes upon any one, fix them upon no one." A simple glance of the eyes is almost impossible to be avoided; but it cannot strike the heart, except it be continued upon the object. Wherefore, if we do not designedly accustom ourselves to look upon a beautiful woman, and should by chance cast our eyes upon one, and then quickly turn them aside, there will be no danger to us; for truly does St. Augustine remark, that not in the glance, but in the dwelling upon the object, is the danger. Hence holy Job says: "I made a covenant with my eyes, that I would not so much as think upon a virgin." (chap, xxxi.) He does not say, " I have made a covenant" not to look, but " not so much as to think" upon a virgin: this means, I will not look too long upon a virgin, lest the sight should penetrate my heart, and I should begin to think of her beauty, and gradually to desire to speak with her, and then embrace her. He then gives the best reason a most holy man could give: "For what part would God from above have in me?" As if he intended to say: God is my chief Happiness and my Inheritance, my greatest good, than whom nothing more excellent can be imagined: but God loves only the chaste and just. To the same purpose are the words of our Lord: " If thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out;" that is, so use it as if you did not possess it; and so accustom your eyes to refrain from sinful objects, as if you were blind. Now they who from their youth are careful in this respect, will not find much difficulty in avoiding other vices: but they who are not so careful, will find a difficulty; though by the grace of God, they can be enabled to change their life, and to avoid this most dangerous snare.

But some one may perhaps reply: Why did God create such beautiful men and women, if He did not wish us to look at them, and admire them? The answer is easy and two-fold. God created male and female for marriage; for thus He spoke in the beginning: "It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself." Man does not require the aid of the woman, except in bringing forth and educating children, as we have already proved from St. Augustine. But man and wife would not easily agree, nor willingly live together their life-time, unless beauty had a share in producing love. Since, therefore, the woman was made beautiful that she might be loved by her husband, she cannot be loved by another with a carnal love; wherefore it is said in the law: " Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife;" and to husbands the apostle speaks: "Husbands love your wives."

There are many good and beautiful things, which ought not to be desired but by those only with whom they agree. The use of meat and wine is good for those in health, but not always to those who are ill. So in the same manner after the resurrection, the beauty of men and women may be safely loved by all of us, for then we shall not possess the carnal concupiscence under which we now groan. Wherefore we must not be surprised in being permitted to admire the beauty of the sun, and moo, and stars, and flowers, which do not nourish concupiscence; and in not being allowed to gaze with pleasure on beautiful men and women, because the sight might perhaps increase or nourish carnal concupiscence.

 

After the sense of sight comes that of hearing, which ought to be no less diligently guarded than the former. But with the ears the "tongue" must be joined, which is the instrument of speech: for words, whether good or bad, are not heard except when pronounced first by the tongue. And as the tongue, unless most carefully guarded, is the cause of many evils, therefore does St. James say: " He that offends not in word, the same is a perfect man: " and a little further: " Behold how small a fire what a great wood it kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity." (chap. iii. 5.)

In this passage the Apostle teaches us three things. First, that to guard the tongue carefully is a most difficult thing; and therefore that there are few, and those only perfect men, who know effectually how to do this. Secondly, that from an evil tongue, the greatest injuries and mischief may arise in a very short time. This is explained by a comparison taken from a spark, which unless immediately extinguished, can consume a whole forest. Thus, one word incautiously spoken, may excite suspicions of another s guilt, from which quarrels, contentions, strifes, homicides, and the ruin of a whole family may arise. St. James, in fine, teaches that an evil tongue is not merely an evil thing in itself alone, but that it includes a multitude of evils; therefore he calls it a “world of iniquity."


For by its means, nearly all crimes are either devised, as adulteries and thefts; or perpetrated, as perjuries and false testimonies; or defended, as when the impious excuse the evil they have committed, or pretend to have done the good they did not.

 

And again, the evil tongue may justly be called "a world of iniquity," because by the tongue man sins against God by blasphemy or perjury; against his neighbour by detraction and back-biting; and against himself, by boasting of good works which he has not done in reality; and by asserting that he did not do the evil things which he did. In addition to the testimony of St. James, I will add that of the prophet David: " Lord, deliver my soul from wicked lips, and a deceitful tongue." (Psalm cxix.)

If this holy king was fearful of a wicked and deceitful tongue, what ought private individuals to do; and much more, if they are not only private, but poor, weak, and obscure ? The prophet adds: "What shall be given to thee, or what shall be added to thee, to a deceitful tongue?" The words are obscure on account of the peculiarity of the Hebrew structure; but the sense appears to be this: Not without cause do I fear a wicked and deceitful tongue, because it is such a great evil that no other can be added to it. The prophet proceeds: “The sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals that lay waste." In these words, by an elegant comparison, he declares how great an evil a deceitful tongue is; for the prophet compares it to a fiery arrow shot by a strong hand. Arrows strike at a distance, and with such quickness, that they can scarcely be avoided. Then arrows to which the deceitful tongue is compared, are said to be sent forth by a strong hand. Thirdly, it is added, that these arrows are sharp, that is, they are well polished and sharpened by a skilful workman. In fine, it is said, that they are like unto desolating coals, that is, fiery, so that they can " lay waste " any thing, however strong and hard:  hence, a wicked and deceitful tongue is not so much like unto the arrows of men, as to the arrows of heaven .lightning, which nothing can resist. This description of the prophet, of a wicked and deceitful tongue, is such, that no evil can be imagined greater.

 

But that the truth may be more clearly understood, I will mention two examples from Scripture. The first, that of the wicked Doëg the Idumean, who accused the priest Achimelech to king Saul, of having conspired with David against him: this was a downright calumny and imposture. But because Saul, at that time, was not well disposed towards David, he easily believed everything, and ordered that not only the priest Achimelech should be killed immediately, but all the other priests, in number about eighty-five, who had not committed the least offence against the king. But Saul, not content with this slaughter, ordered those to be slain also who dwelt in the city nobe; and not only did his cruelty extend to men and women, but even to children, and infants, and animals. Of this wicked and deceitful tongue of Doëg, it is probable that David spoke in the psalm mentioned above, part of which I explained. From this example we may learn, how productive of evil is a deceitful and wicked tongue.

 

The other example I will take from the gospel of St. Mark: When the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod the Tetrarch and his courtiers, she gained his favour to such a degree that he swore before all the company, he would give the girl whatever she asked, though it were half his kingdom. But the daughter first asked her mother Herodias what she should demand; she told her to ask for the head of St. John the Baptist. This was demanded, and soon was the head of the Baptist brought in on a dish. What crimes were there here! The mother sinned most grievously, in requesting a most unjust thing; Herod sinned no less grievously, by ordering a most innocent man to be killed, who was the precursor of our Lord and "more than a prophet," than whom no greater had arisen among those born of women: and without his cause being heard, without judgment, at the time of a solemn banquet, the demand of the girl was granted! But let us hear the punishment, as we have seen the evils of the crime. Herod being a short time after deprived of his government by the emperor Gains, was sent into perpetual banishment. Thus he who swore that he would give away half of his kingdom, exchanged that kingdom for perpetual exile, as Josephus mentions in his "Antiquities." The daughter of Herodias, whose dancing was the cause of St. John s death, crossing some ice, it broke under her and she fell in with her whole body except her head, which being cut from the body, rolled about on the ice; thus all might see what was the cause of her miserable death. In fine, Herodias herself soon died broken-hearted, and followed her daughter to the torments of hell. Nicephorus Callistus relates this tragedy in his History. Behold, what crimes and what punishment followed the rash and foolish oath taken by Herod the Tetrarch.

 

We will now mention the remedies which prudent men are accustomed to use against sins of the tongue. The holy prophet David, in the beginning of the xxxviii. Psalm, speaks of the remedy he used; “I said: I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue." This means, that I may guard against sins of the tongue, I will carefully mind my ways; for I will neither speak, nor think, nor do anything, unless I first examine and weigh what I am about to do or speak.

 

These are the paths by which men walk in this life. Wherefore the remedy against evil words, and not only against these, but against deeds also, and thoughts, and desires, is to think beforehand on what we are about to do, or speak, or desire. And this is the character of men, not to do anything rashly, but to consider what is to be done; and if it agree with sound reason, to do it; but if not, not to do it. And what we say of actions, may be applied to speech, desires, and other works of a rational being. But if all cannot consider beforehand on what they are about to do or speak, certainly there can be no prudent man, desirous of his eternal salvation, who will not every morning of each day, before he commences his business, approach to God in prayer, and beg of Him to direct his ways, his actions, his words, desires, and thoughts, to the greater glory of God, and the salvation of his own soul. Then, at the close of the day, before he lies down to sleep, he should examine his conscience and ask himself, whether he has offended God in thought, word, or deed; and if he shall find that he has committed any sin, especially a mortal one, let him not dare to close his eyes in sleep, before he first reconcile himself to God by true repentance, and make a firm resolution so to guard his ways, as not to offend in word, or deed, or desire.

 

With regard to the sense of “hearing," a few remarks must be made. When the tongue is restrained by reason from uttering evil words, nothing can injure the sense of hearing. There are four kinds of words, against which in particular the sense of hearing must be closed, lest through it evil words should enter the heart and corrupt it.

 

The first are words against Faith, which human curiosity often listens to with pleasure: and yet if these penetrate the heart, they deprive it of Faith, which is the root and beginning of all good. Now no words of infidels are more pernicious than those which deny, either the providence of God, or the immortality of the soul: for such assertions make men not merely heretics, but atheists, and thus open the door to all kinds of wickedness. Another class of evil words regards detraction, which is eagerly listened to, but which destroys fraternal charity. Holy David, who was a man according to God’s own heart, says in the Psalms: " Instead of making me a return of love, they detracted me: but I gave myself to prayer." And since detraction is often heard at table, St. Augustine placed these verses over his dining-table:
"Quisquis amat dictis absentftm rodero vitam,
Hanc mensam iiidignam noverit esse sibi."
“This board allows no vile detractor place,
Whose tongue doth love the absent to disgrace."
The third species of evil words consists in flattery, which is willingly heard by men; and yet it produces pride and vanity, the former of which is the queen of vices, and is most hateful to God. A fourth kind consists in using immodest and amatory words in lascivious songs: to the lovers of this world nothing is sweeter, though nothing can be more dangerous than such words and songs. Lascivious songs are the songs of sirens’, who enchant men, and then plunge them into the sea and devour them.

 

Against all these dangers there is a salutary remedy, to keep with good company, but most carefully to avoid evil company. Men, when in the presence of those whom they have either not seen before, or with whom they are not familiar, have not the boldness to detract their neighbour, or to make use of heretical, or flattering, or lascivious expressions. Wherefore Solomon, in the beginning of Proverbs, thus expresses his first precept: "My son, hear the instructions of thy father, &c “My son, if sinners shall entice thee, consent not to them. If they shall say: Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us hide snares for the innocent without cause: let us swallow him up alive like hell, and whole as one that goeth down into the pit. We shall find all precious substance, and shall fill our houses with spoils. Cast in thy lot with us, let us all have one purse. My son, walk not thou with them, restrain thy foot from their paths. For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. And they themselves lie in wait for their own blood, and practise deceits against their own souls. (chap. i. 10, &c.) This advice of a most wise man, affords an easy remedy, to keep the sense of hearing from being corrupted by evil words; especially if we add the words of our Lord, who has said: “A man’s enemies shall be they of his own household."

 

The third sense is our smell, of which nothing can be said, for it relates to odours that possess little power in corrupting the soul; and the odours of flowers are harmless.

 

I come therefore to the fourth sense, the sense of taste. The sins that enter the soul and corrupt it by this gate, are two fold, gluttony and drunkenness; from these many other sins follow. Against these vices we have the admonition of our Lord in St. Luke: " Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, etc." Another admonition is given by St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans: " Let us walk honestly as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness." These two sins are numbered in the Holy Scriptures with other grievous crimes, as St. Paul mentions: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are, fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God."

(Manifesta autem sunt opera carnis quae sunt fornicatio inmunditia luxuria, idolorum servitus veneficia inimicitiae contentiones

aemulationes irae rixae dissensiones sectae, Invidiae homicidia ebrietates comesationes et his similia quae praedico vobis sicut

praedixi quoniam qui talia agunt regnum Dei non consequentur) (Epistle to .Galatians, v. 19, 20 &21)


But this is not the only punishment of such sins: for they also deaden the soul, so as to make it totally unfit for the contemplation of heavenly things. This our Saviour teaches us; and St. Basil in his sermon on " Fasting," illustrates it by two very apt comparisons. The first is taken from the sun and  from vapours: "As those thick vapours which rise from damp and wet places, cover the heavens with clouds and prevent the rays of the sun from reaching us; so also from surfeiting and drunkenness, smoke and vapour as it were rise within us, that obscure our reason, and deprive us of the rays of divine light." The other comparison is taken from smoke and bees. "As bees are expelled from their hives by smoke, so also the wisdom of God is expelled by revellings and drunkenness; and this wisdom is, as it were, like a bee in our soul, producing the honey of virtue, of grace, and every heavenly consolation." Moreover, drunkenness injures the health of the body also. A doctor named Antiphanes, most skillful in his  profession, asserted, as Clement of Alexandria informs us in the second book of his "Pædagogus," that almost the only cause of every disease was, too much food and drink. On the other hand, St. Basil tells us, that he thought "Abstinence" might be called the parent of health. And indeed physicians in general, in order to restore health to a diseased body, always order their patient to abstain from meat and wine. Again drunkenness and revellings not only injure the health of the soul and body, but also our domestic interests: how many from being rich have become poor; how many from masters have become servants, and all by drunkenness! This vice also deprives many poor people of the alms of the rich; for they who are not content with moderate meat and drink, easily spend their whole substance upon their own pleasures, so that nothing remains for their needy brethren: thus are the words of the Apostle fulfilled: "And one indeed is hungry, and another is drunk."

 

We will now mention some remedies. The example of the saints may serve as one remedy against these sins. I omit the hermits and monks whom St. Jerome mentions in his Epistle (De Custodiâ Virginitatis) to Eustochius; he tells her, that amongst them anything "cooked" was a luxury. I will not dwell on St. Ambrose, who, as Paulinus mentions in his life, fasted every day except Sundays and solemn festivals. I will not speak of St. Augustine, who, as Possidius testifies, used only herbs and legumes at his table, and had meat only for strangers and guests. But if we attentively consider how the Lord of all things was Himself in want, when in the desert he undertook to feed the multitude, we shall doubtless soon acquire "Sobriety." God, who alone is powerful, alone wise, alone bountiful, and who could and who wished to provide in the best manner possible for His beloved people, for forty years rained down upon them only Manna, and gave them water from a rock. Manna was food not much differing from flour mixed with honey, as we are told in the book of Exodus. Behold how moderately our most wise God fed and nourished His people; their food, cake; their drink, water; and yet all continued to enjoy good health, until they began to long after flesh. Christ Jesus, the Son of God, after the example of His Father, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” when He feasted so many thousands of the people, placed before them only a few loaves and fishes, and water for drink. And not only when our Saviour was yet in the world, did He give His hearers such a repast, but after His resurrection also, when " all power had been given unto Him in heaven and on earth," meeting His disciples on the seashore, He feasted them on bread and fish alone, and this very frugally. O how different are the ways of God from the ways of men! The King of heaven and earth rejoices in simplicity and sobriety, and is chiefly solicitous to fill, enrich, and exhilarate the soul. But men prefer listening to their concupiscence and their enemy the devil before God. Thus we may say with the Apostle, that the god of carnal men is "their belly." The sense of " touch" comes next, which of all the senses is the most lively and fleshy, by which many sins enter to defile our own soul as well as the souls of others; such as the works of the flesh, which St. Paul enumerates when he says: " Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty," &c. By these three words the Apostle includes all kinds of impurities. Nor is there any necessity to dwell more at length on these sins, which the faithful ought rather to be ignorant of, and the names of which ought never to be heard amongst them. Thus does St. Paul speak in his Epistle to the Ephesians: "But fornication and all uncleanness, let it not be so much as named amongst you as becometh saints” Against all these crimes the following seem to me to be the remedies, and they are such as physicians use to cure the sick. First, they begin with fasting or abstinence, they forbid the patients meat and wine. So must every one do the same who is given to luxury, he must abstain from eating and drinking too much.


This the Apostle prescribes to Timothy: “Use a little wine for thy stomachs sake, and thy frequent infirmities.” (1st to Timothy 23.) That is, use wine on the account of the weakness of your stomach, but only moderately to avoid drunkenness, for in much wine is luxury. Again, physicians give bitter medicine, bleed the body, make incisions, and do other things painful to nature. So did the saints say with the Apostle, “But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should become a cast-away." (1st Epistle to Corinth, chap. ix. 27.) Hence the ancient hermits and anchorets led a life quite opposed to the pleasures and delight of the flesh, in fastings and watchings, lying on the ground in sackcloth and chastisements; and this they did, not so much through hatred to their body, as to the concupiscences of the flesh.

 

I will mention one example out of many. St. Jerome mentions in the life of St. Hilarian, that when he felt himself tempted by impure thoughts, he thus addressed his body: "I will not let you kick, nor will I feed you with corn, but with chaff; I will tame you by hunger and thirst; I will load you with heavy weights, and accustom you to heat and cold, so that you shall think more of food than of pleasure." Again: in order to exercise the body, physicians prescribe walking, playing at ball, or any other like exercise; so also in order to preserve the health of the soul, we ought, if truly desirous of our salvation, to spend some time every day in meditating on the mysteries of our redemption, or the four last things, or some other pious subjects. And if we cannot of ourselves furnish subjects for meditation, we should spend some time in reading the Holy Scriptures, the Lives of the Saints, or some other good book.

 

In fine, a powerful remedy against temptations of the flesh and all sins of impurity, is to fly idleness; for no one is more exposed to such temptations, than he who has nothing to do, who spends his time in gazing at people put of the window, or in chatting with his friends, & c. But on the contrary, none are more free from impure temptations, than those who spend the whole day in agricultural labours and in other arts. for our example in this respect, our Saviour chose poor parents, that by His own labour He might procure food for them; and before He began the labours of his mission, He allowed Himself to be called the Son of a carpenter, whom He assisted in his work. It was said of Him, “Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary?" I may add, that working men and peasants should be content with their lot, since the wisdom of God chose that state for Himself, His Mother, and His reputed Father; not because they stood in need of such remedies, but that they might admonish us to fly idleness, if we wish to avoid many sins.

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Thus ends my presentation of the great work of St. Robert Bellarmine, the Art of Dying Well (Ars bene moriendi).  If you wish to review the full text, you can find it here: http://goodcatholicbooks.org/pdf/bellarmine_art-of-dying-well.pdf

Live well.