What Does the Prayer Really Say? Easter Sunday – Station: St. Mary Major
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
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We have come through our forty day Lenten observance, with its penance and self-examination with conversion, to the pinnacle feast of the entire liturgical year, the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. The ceremonies of the Sacred Triduum, conceived as one ongoing liturgical moment stretched over three days, helped us to enter into Christ’s love for us manifested in the Last Supper with the institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders, manifested in His Passion and death, and then the victory which He shares with us as He now rises from the tomb. The final tints of contrast were painted on Good Friday and Holy Saturday: Christ was taken from the altar and reposed in another place. The altar was completely stripped. The holy water fonts and stoops are emptied. The Passion was sung and the Cross kissed on Good Friday. We had no Mass, though we could at least receive Communion, on Good Friday. Where the Vigil Mass of Easter begins at midnight, which is the more authentic way to celebrate the Vigil, the Church would not even have had Communion on the whole of Holy Saturday. It is as if the Church herself dead in the tomb, waiting in the tomb with Jesus. Thus we plumb the nadir of our liturgical lives in a final deprivation before coming back to life again. With the Vigil and Sunday morning, abundant flowers, instrumental music, our finest white and gold vestments return. The Exsultet is chanted before the brightly burning Paschal candle. Again we sing out Alleluias and ring our bells. The new Baptismal water is blessed and poured back into the stoops throughout the church and from the penitential Asperges me we change to the chant Vidi aquam. Catechumens are received and baptized, some also being confirmed. They are admitted to the Body and Blood of the Christ for the first time, and we seasoned Catholics together with them after our brief “fast” from the Eucharist on Holy Saturday. On Easter during the day we hear the Sequence Victimae paschali laudes about Christ the Victor King’s duel with Death and His ultimate triumph. Scimus Christum surexisse a mortuis vere: Tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere!.. We know that Christ has truly risen: O Thou victor King, have mercy on us! Amen. Alleluia!
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Perpetuo, Deus, Ecclesiam tuam pio favore tuere,
ut, paschalibus renovata mysteriis,
ad resurrectionis perveniat claritatem.
This rather brief Post communion prayer appears to be a new composition for the 1970/75MR, the so-called Novus Ordo of Paul VI.
We have several old friends in our prayer this week, which we should review. First, you will no doubt have already remembered that the early Latin Fathers used sacramentum to translate Greek mysterion, and so they are often interchangeable. In this case the phrase “paschal mysteries” extends not only to the mysteries of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord, but also to how all those realities are contained within our own renewal of those events when we celebrate the Eucharist. The adjective pius, -a, -um is more than simply “pious” as we usually use that in commonly spoken modern English. In Latin it carries with it a strong sense of “duty”, implying a strong relationship and obligations. Thus, it can stand for a range of concepts from “patriotic” to “filial” depending on the nature of the relationship. I hesitate always to imply that God has any sort of “duty” toward us. However, given our confidence in the promises He extends to us in the covenant He initiated, we can speak to a certain extent of Him being true to His word as “dutifulness”, but always understood that God can never be obliged by us. Claritas and gloria in many early Latin texts and liturgical contexts refers to a divine characteristic which, in the life to come, God will share with us. Through His sharing His own gloria with us, we will forever and ever be transformed by Him into brighter and better icons of God. That said, we turn to our valuable Lewis & Short Dictionaries in a search for the verb tueor which produces the form tuere which, among other things, is an imperative. Tueor basically means, “to see, look, gaze upon; to watch, view” and hence by logical application “to look to, defend, protect”. A few years ago the Holy Father signed on 28 May 1998 an Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio, Ad tuendam fidem, by which new norms were added to the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and also into the Code of the Eastern Churches. The letter defends the content of the Church’s faith from attack and erosion by establishing a profession of faith and establishing sanctions. The first part of that letter reads,
“To protect the faith of the Catholic Church against errors arising from certain members of the Christian faithful, especially from among those dedicated to the various disciplines of sacred theology, we, whose principal duty is to confirm the brethren in the faith (Lk 22: 32), consider it absolutely necessary to add to the existing texts of the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches new norms which expressly impose the obligation of upholding truths proposed in a definitive way by the Magisterium of the Church, and which also establish related canonical sanctions.”
Placed in the Code we now have:
c. 750 – 1. Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, which in fact is manifested by the common adherence of Christ’s faithful under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium. All are therefore bound to avoid any contrary doctrines.
2. Furthermore, each and everything set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must be firmly accepted and held; namely those things required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith; therefore, anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Those who violate this canon and who persist in doing so after being admonished are to be punished with a just penalty. Laws that bear no consequences for those who would ignore or violate them are no laws at all. For there to be good order in any society, which the Church also is, there must be sanctions and censures, penalties and punishments. This is a matter of charity for all, so that the common good of the Church’s membership may be fostered and protected. When dissenters and heretics break the unity of the Church and harm her members and thus “die” and endanger others as well, they are given strong incentive through censures to return to the source of life and grace. Excommunication and other sanctions are remedial, they are tools of love, not of vindictiveness.
Look to Thy Church, O God, with unending dutiful good will,
so that, having been renewed by means of the paschal sacramental mysteries,
it may attain to the glory of the resurrection.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Father of love,
watch over your Church
and bring us to the glory of the resurrection
promised by this Easter sacrament.
It is through contrasts that we come to greater joy in our Easter celebrations. Without the stark and penitential season of Lent, we do not see the true splendor of Easter. We human beings must fast before we feast so that the feast is that much more festal. There is an old adage amongst musicians and actors: “Everything is nothing.” That is to say, when the volume is always turned up without variation, when everything is either too dark or too bright or the whole set is painted green without relief, and so forth, then after a while we get bored and tune it out. When everything is always at the same level, it becomes as nothing in our hearts and minds. Do we not say that “variety is the spice of life”?
In our prayer today we recognize the “renewal” that we as a Church have experienced. Like grains of wheat we fell and died during Lent. We rise now to life and bear fruit. Just as we prune flowering bushes and certain trees and they then burst into even more abundant blossoms and fruit, we too are pruned back in Lent. And not only in Lent, but constantly during the year. Each Friday is a little Lent when we are all required by law to do penance. Each Sunday is a little Easter when we rise to new life. Each week is a chance for us to bear great fruit because of the ongoing cycle of dying and rising.
As I write this I am watching the rising of a whole people to new life. After years of terror and oppression, poverty and anxiety, after a short few weeks of conflict and blood, an ancient people gathered around the very ground where our First Parents may have emerged from the Garden of Eden into a new world after their terrible fall we are witnessing a kind of resurrection. Certainly they have now a great deal of suffering, sacrifice and rebuilding to accomplish, but they are now free to suffer, sacrifice and rebuild. And they are free to do so because of the suffering and sacrifice of always faithful Marines and soldiers of a country whose motto is “In God we trust”. Together with many allies another blow was dealt to the original dealer of death, the enemy of our souls. When each of us die to self and rise to new life in the confessional and in the living sacred mysteries of our faith, made possible by our Easter character through baptism, the Devil and prince of this world is dealt a great defeat by our King. The Devil and his minions will always attack us even though if causes them agony: their malice overcomes their fear of holy souls and the pain they endure from sacred things and Holy Mother Church. But, with God, in whom we can trust, always “dutiful” in our regard and true to His promises, renewed in the mysteries of dying and rising surely we will attain to the final transforming glory of heaven. In Christ, our humanity already sits at the Father’s right hand, waiting for us all to join Him. Easter Sunday and the signs of the times in recent events in the world are clear signposts that we have inched ever closer to that great and final victory.
May God bless you and yours during this holy and sacred Easter season.