Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday Notes

In 2012, 2013, 2016, and again this year, the Solemnity of the Annunciation has been moved from March 25 (to April 9, the Monday after Divine Mercy Sunday). Since today is Palm Sunday, Holy Week has begun.

The Catholic Church in England before the Reformation used some adaptations of the Latin or Roman Rite called the Sarum Use. These adaptations had developed at Salisbury Cathedral and took their name from the Latin for Salisbury. This blog, with delightfully illustrative typescript for its title, Modern Medievalism, describes how the full Sarum Use ritual for Palm Sunday took place at Salisbury Cathedral, but it was adapted to parishes throughout During Holy Week, these Sarum Use adaptations of the ritual demonstrated the great devotion of the English people to the Eucharist and the Passion of Our Lord. Eamon Duffy’s great work, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 offers us many details of these rituals. The website for the now Anglican Cathedral of Salisbury notes that the Sarum Use was at its height of popularity in parish churches throughout England just before the English Reformation. During the reign of Edward VI, the Book of Common Prayer was imposed on the people and the church, so the service books were destroyed.

At the beginning of Holy Week, Palm Sunday was celebrated with a procession from the parish church. As Duffy notes, these processions were one of the most elaborate rituals of the Sarum Use, focused on the Blessed Sacrament and the incarnational celebration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Instead of a figure representing Jesus riding on a donkey, the Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession to the parish church. The Christians celebrating that day knew that Jesus was present in the Holy Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity--that He was really there with them as they walked in procession with palms (willow branches) and kissed the ground before Him.

The choirs sang "Gloria, Laus et Honor" (All Glory, Laud and Honor) by Theodulph of Orleans and after the procession entered the church, the dramatic reading of the St. Matthew's Passion captured the congregation's attention. Duffy notes it was sometimes read from the Rood Loft next to the Crucifixion scene in front and above the Altar, with alternating voices of the Narrator, Jesus, and the other Speakers. The holiest week of the year had begun and the parishioners were prepared to celebrate the Holy Triduum and receive Holy Communion on Easter Sunday.

During the celebration of Palm Sunday, I always think of G.K. Chesterton's poem, "The Donkey":

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Please see my post this morning on the National Catholic Register blogroll on the Seven Dolors or Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

The Seven Dolors are three mysteries from Jesus’s infancy and childhood and four from His Passion, highlighting Mary’s sorrows:

1. The Prophecy of Simon

2. The Flight into Egypt

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days

4. Mary Meets Jesus as He Carries His Cross

5. Mary Stands at the Foot of the Cross

6. Mary Receives the Dead Body of Jesus

7. Mary Witnesses the Burial of Her Son

The first dolor corresponds to the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Presentation in the Temple; the third to the fifth Joyful Mystery, the Finding in the Temple. I remember from Catholic grade school being taught that those two Joyful Mysteries were mixed with sorrow: Mary and Joseph were joyful that Simeon and Anna rejoiced that Jesus was the Savior but Simeon’s warning that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart troubled them; Mary and Joseph were relieved and happy to find Jesus in the Temple but they were stunned by His statement that He had to be in His Father’s house, emphasizing that God was His Father, not Joseph and His home was the Temple not with them in Nazareth.

The Flight into Egypt was sorrowful for Mary—and for Joseph too—not only because of the dangers of travel and exile but because the Holy Innocents had suffered and died.

The last four Dolors focus on Mary’s sorrows during the Passion of Jesus as he carries the Cross to Golgotha and meets her, as the traditional Fourth Station of Cross denotes; as she stands the foot of the Cross as described in the Gospel of St. John; and as she receives His Body from the Cross and hastily buries it before the Sabbath. After seeing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the image of Mary holding Jesus’s body—inspired by the art of Caravaggio— immediately came to my mind when I prayed that mystery.

Mary and the Passion

Attentive daily Mass attendants might have noticed the alternative Collect for the Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent in their Magnificat prayer book or missalette, even if the priest did not use it:

O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.

This alternative collect in the Ordinary Form was added in the 2002 revision of the Roman Missal.

On the Roman Calendar before the 1970 revision, the Friday before Palm Sunday was the Commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Passion Week. Parishes where the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite is celebrated—and in Anglican Ordinariate parishes and communities—observe this special remembrance of what Our Lady endured in seeing her Son so cruelly tortured and executed.

Best wishes for a wonderful Holy Week to everyone!

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