Friday, September 14, 2012

The Triumph of the Cross and Mary's Sorrows

Last year I posted on Rood Screens in English churches before the Reformation: see that post here.

My latest article, exploring the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross and the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, on the Pray the Mass blog will be posted early this morning here. Here's a preview:

The Feast of the Triumph of the Cross was observed in Rome in the late seventh century to commemorate the recovery of the Holy Cross by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 629. St. Helena, Constantine’s mother, had found the True Cross in Jerusalem in the fourth century but the Persians had captured it and returned it after Heraclius defeated the Persian king Khosrau. The emperor returned it to Jerusalem, and this feast recalls that event.
But on a deeper level, of course, the Feast recalls Jesus’ triumph over death and the fulfillment of His great statement, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." (John 12:32, which serves as the Communion Antiphon). The liturgy of the Mass for this Feast includes both triumph and sorrow in the readings and prayers, since Jesus both suffers His Passion and defeats sin and death. From the Book of Numbers, the First Reading recalls the story of Moses and the bronze Seraph, raised on a pole—when the people Israel who had been grumbling against God for their sufferings, looked up to the serpent, they were healed of the serpent bites God had sent to afflict them. . . .

Earlier this month, Pray the Mass ran this article I wrote on Pope St. Pius X and Holy Communion--in it I demonstrate how I can find a link between my studies of the English Reformation and almost anything!:

As I’ve studied the English Reformation, I’ve read often about the state of religious practice before Henry VIII broke away from the Pope and established himself as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England. As Eric Ives points out in his recent study, The Reformation Experience, 16th century Catholics in England demonstrated great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. At Sunday Mass, they were most attentive at the moment of consecration, worshipping the Body and the Blood of Jesus as the priest elevated the Host and the Chalice. At great shrines and cathedrals, the faithful wanted to see the Precious Body and Blood as each Mass was celebrated in separate chapels. The Feast of Corpus Christi was instantly popular in England with its processions and special liturgies as written by the Dominican friar, Thomas Aquinas. Holy Week, with its special vigil protecting the consecrated Host from Good Friday to Easter, also demonstrates their devotion to the Real Presence. The one thing they did not do is receive Holy Communion often. They were obligated to receive during the Easter Season (Easter Duty), but the practice of frequent Communion had fallen off during the Middle Ages. . . .

On this Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, the sad connection to the English Reformation is the destruction of the Rood Screens, the statutes or figure of the Mother of God and the Beloved Disciple standing on either of the crucified Christ, and the widespread iconoclasm repeated over and over again in England during the long period of religious change--even to the English Civil War when Parliamentary forces destroyed so much of the beauty restored by Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud. No wonder some call it the "English Deformation"!

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