Saturday, March 22, 2014
Report on the Veneration of "La Sainte Couronne d'Epines" at Notre Dame
As I had planned, I did attend the Veneration of the Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last Friday. I rode the free Metro from the station near our apartment to Bastille on Line 8 and transferred to Line 1 for Hotel de Ville. Walking across that parvis, I crossed over the Seine to the Ile de la Cite! I was so happy to see the facade of that great church, with all the crowds gathered in front of it, and the queue for entry moved quickly. I was a little late and came into the service about 10 minutes after it started. Lots of walking up and down stairs transferring from line 8 to line 1 in that Bastille station!
The Chevaliers du Saint Sepulcre a Notre Dame de Terre sainte served as ushers for the service while the organist and a cantor led the congregation in psalms and hymns. The gentlemen of the order were resplendent in long white capes and white gloves, while the ladies wore long black capes and gorgeous black lace mantillas. They were quite busy seating latecomers like me and shooing away tourists and photographers. Between the hymns and psalms, which included Bishop Fortunatus' Vexilla Regis and the Ave Regina Caelorum, a priest gave reflections on the theme "Tout est accompli"--It is finished, one of Jesus' Seven Words from the Cross.
Other ladies carried baskets with prayer cards. Eventually, the section I was seated in joined the procession for veneration. Many in the congregation left immediately after veneration, but I stayed through the end, when the Crown was carried in procession out of the nave. The Chevalier who served as thurifer perfumed the air down the aisle with huge swings of incense. It was a very moving and solemn service.
UPDATE: When we attended Sunday Mass at St. Eugene-Ste. Cecile, the pastor read the announcements after Mass. He mentioned a special procession of the Crown of Thorns from Notre Dame to Sainte Chapelle, which King St. Louis had built as the reliquary for the relic. Sainte Chapelle is sadly now just a beautiful shell of a tourist attraction. Mass is not celebrated there; nor is the Holy Sacrament present. It is gorgeous, of course. Here is a report from Reuters about the procession--you can see the Chevaliers du Saint Sepulcre guarding the Crown on the Altar at Notre Dame in the first video. In the second video, you can see St. Louis' holy chapel used for its true purpose: the Worship of God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Splendid history!