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INTRODUCTION. St. Paul addressed these words to the faithful of Corinth, from Ephesus, around Easter time toward the end of his third missionary journey. He is referring to the Jewish custom of excluding all leaven from their houses before celebrating the Pasch, and he tells his Christian readers to celebrate the coming feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, by excluding from their souls the leaven of sin and wickedness, and by feasting with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. In other words, the Apostle is reminding the faithful of Corinth that the way to celebrate the new Pasch, the Feast of Easter, is to have their souls free from sin and adorned with the grace of Christ. As Christ, from the state of natural death, rose glorious and immortal on Easter Sunday, so the Christian, who wishes to be associated with his risen Lord and worthily to keep the great feast of the Resurrection, should rise from the state of sin and moral death to that of grace and life. Continue reading

Easter Sunday

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Easter Sunday

By Father Francis Xavier Weninger

As often as the Church, in commemoration of the glorious Resurrection, celebrates the yearly recurrence of the Paschal time, and entones the joyous Alleluia with her children, so often do we recall to mind those privileged souls who, the Gospel tells us, had the happiness of hearing the glad tidings: “Jesus, lives; He has arisen,” of listening to,of beholding the risen Jesus. This privilege was not limited to one or two; but was enjoyed by a number of the disciples, who believed and hoped in the Lord. Often, too, we go in spirit to the sepulcher with the holy women who went thither bearing ointments, and think of that bliss which filled their hearts when, from the angel of the Lord, they heard the welcome words: “He is arisen.” We think of Mary Magdalen, whose joy found utterance in the single word, as she knelt before her Lord, “Rabboni.”

We behold the wondering Apostles, when, on the evening of the same day, as they were assembled together “with closed doors,” their Master stood before them and pronounced the blessed words: “Pax vobis”–“Peace be unto you.” Continue reading

Exultet (Easter Proclamation)

The Exsultet, sometimes seen as “Exultet” and also referred to as the Praeconium Paschale, is an ancient chant sung during the Easter Vigil. It is traditionally sung by the deacon after the Paschal candle has been lit and the clergy have processed to the altar. The lighted Paschal candle contains a twofold symbolism. First, it represents the pillar of fire that went before the Israelites during their flight from Egypt. Second, it represents Christ, who is the light of the world. The procession likewise has a twofold meaning. It symbolizes the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt, and also the arrival of Christ who is the Savior of the world. The Exsultet sings of this symbolism and recalls for us the history of our salvation; from the fall of Adam, to the events of that first Passover held by Moses and the Israelites, and then finally the events of that last Passover at which Jesus suffered, died, rose from the dead and by which mankind was redeemed. The tone of the hymn is very much one of joy at having received so great a gift as our redemption and eternal life.The final verses from both the 1962 Missal and the 1975 Missal are given below.
Exsultet iam angelica turba caelorum exsultent divina mysteria et pro tanti Regis victoria, tuba insonet salutaris. Let now the heavenly hosts of angels rejoice let the living mysteries be joyfully celebrated: and let a sacred trumpet proclaim the victory of so great a King.
Gaudeat et tellus tantis irradiata fulgoribus et, aeterni regis splendore illustrata, totius orbis se sentiat amisisse caliginem. Let the earth also be filled with joy, illuminated with such resplendent rays; and let men know that the darkness which overspread the whole world is chased away by the splendor of our eternal King.
Laetetur et mater Ecclesia tanti luminis adornata fulgoribus: et magnis populorum vocibus haec aula resultet. Let our mother the Church be also glad, finding herself adorned with the rays of so great a light and let this temple resound with the joyful acclamations of the people.
Quapropter adstantes vos, fratres carissimi, ad tam miram huius sancti luminis claritatem, una mecum, quaeso, Dei omnipotentis misericordiam invocate. Wherefore, beloved brethren, you who are now present at the admirable brightness of this holy light, I beseech you to invoke with me the mercy of almighty God.
Ut, qui me non meis meritis intra Levitarum numerum dignatus est aggregare luminis sui claritatem infundens cerei huius laudem implere perficiat. That he, who has admitted me into the number of his Levites not on my own merits, will, by an infusion of his light upon me, enable me to celebrate the praises of this light.
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium suum, qui cum eo vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Through our Lord Jesus Christ his Son, who with Him and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God for ever and ever.
R. Amen. R. Amen.
V. Dominus vobiscum. R. Et cum spiritu tuo. V. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit.
V. Sursum corda. R. Habemus ad Dominum. V. Lift up your hearts. R. We have lifted them up to the Lord.
V. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro. R. Dignum et iustum est. V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. R. It is fitting and just.
Vere dignum et iustum est, invisibilem Deum Patrem omnipotentem Filiumque eius unigenitum, Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, toto cordis ac mentis affectu et vocis ministerio personare. It is truly fitting and just to proclaim with all the affection of our heart and soul, and with the sound of our voice the invisible God the Father almighty, and his only Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
Qui pro nobis aeterno Patri Adae debitum solvit et veteris piaculi cautionem pio cruore detersit. Who paid for us to his eternal Father the debt of Adam: and by his sacred blood canceled the guilt contracted by original sin.
Haec sunt enim festa Paschalia, in quibus vere ille Agnus occiditur, cuius sanguine postes fidelium consecrantur. For this is the Paschal solemnity, in which the true Lamb was slain, by whose blood the doors of the faithful are consecrated.
Haec nox est, in qua primum patres nostros, filios Israel, eductos de Aegypto, Mare Rubrum sicco vestigio transire fecisti. Haec igitur nox est, quae peccatorum tenebras columnae illuminatione purgavit. This is the night in which thou formerly broughtest forth our forefathers, the children of Israel, out of Egypt, leading them dry-foot through the Red Sea. This then is the night which dissipated the darkness of sin by the light of the pillar.
Haec nox est, quae hodie per universum mundum in Christo credentes a vitiis saeculi, et caligine peccatorum segregatos reddit gratiae, sociat sanctitati. This is the night which now delivers all over the world those that believe in Christ from the vices of the world and darkness of sin, restores them to grace, and clothes them with sanctity.
Haec nox est, in qua, destructis vinculis mortis, Christus ab inferis victor ascendit. This is the night in which Christ broke the chains of death, and ascended conqueror from hell.
Nihil enim nobis nasci profuit, nisi redimi profuisset. For it availed us nothing to be born, unless it had availed us to be redeemed.
O mira circa nos tuae pietatis dignatio! O inaestimabilis dilectio caritatis: ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti! O how admirable is thy goodness towards us! O how inestimable is thy love! Thou hast delivered up thy Son to redeem a slave.
O certe necessarium Adae peccatum, quod Christi morte deletum est! O truly necessary sin of Adam, which the death of Christ has blotted out!
O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem! O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!
O vere beata nox, quae sola meruit scire tempus et horam, in qua Christus ab inferis resurrexit! O truly blessed night, which alone deserves to know the time and hour when Christ rose again from hell.
Haec nox est, de qua scriptum est: Et nox sicut dies illuminabitur: et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis. This is the night of which it is written: And the night shall be as light as the day, and the night is my illumination in my delights.
Huius igitur sanctificatio noctis fugat scelera, culpas lavat: et reddit innocentiam lapsis, et maestis laetitiam. Fugat odia, concordiam parat, et curvat imperia. Therefore the sanctification of this night blots out crimes, washes away sins, and restores innocence to sinners, and joy to the sorrowful. It banishes enmities, produces concord, and humbles empires.
In huius igitur noctis gratia, suscipe, sancte Pater laudis huius sacrificium vespertinum, quod tibi in haec cerei oblatione sollemni, per ministrorum manus de operibus apum, sacrosancta reddit ecclesia. Therefore on this sacred night, receive, O holy Father, the evening sacrifice of this sacrifice, which thy holy Church by the hands of her ministers presents to thee in the solemn offering of this wax candle made out of the labor of bees.
Sed iam columnae huius praeconia novimus, quam in honorem Dei rutilans ignis accendit. Qui, licet sit divisus in partes, mutuati tamen luminis detrimenta non novit. Alitur enim liquantibus ceris, quas in substantiam pretiosae huius lampadis apis mater eduxit. And now we know the excellence of this pillar, which the bright fire lights for the honor of God. Which fire, though now divided, suffers no loss from the communication of its light. Because it is fed by the melted wax, which the mother bee wrought for the substance of this precious lamp.
Ending according to the 1962 Missal: Ending according to the 1962 Missal:
O vere beata nox, quae exspoliavit Aegyptos, ditavit Hebraeos nox, in qua terrenis caelestia, humanis divina iunguntur! O truly blessed night, which plundered the Egyptians, and enriched the Hebrews. A night, in which heaven is united to earth, and God to man.
Oramus ergo te, Domine, ut cereus iste in honorem tui nominis consecratus, ad noctis huius caliginem destruendam, indeficiens perseveret. Et in odorem suavitatis acceptus, supernis luminaribus misceatur. Flammas eius lucifer matutinus inveniat: Ille, inquam, lucifer, qui nescit occasum: Ille qui regressus ab inferis, humano generi serenus illuxit. We beseech thee therefore, O Lord, that this candle, consecrated to the honor of thy name, may continue burning to dissipate the darkness this night. And being accepted as a sweet savor, may be united with the celestial lights. Let the morning star find it alight, that star which never sets. Which being returned from hell, shone with brightness on mankind.
Precamur ergo te, Domine, ut nos famulos tuos, omnemque clerum, et devotissimum populum, una cum beatissimo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. quiete temporum concessa, in his paschalibus gaudiis, assidua protectione regere, gubernare, et conservare digneris. Per eundem Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. We beseech thee therefore, O Lord, to grant us peaceable times during these Paschal solemnities, and with thy constant protection to rule, govern, and preserve us thy servants, all the clergy, and the devout laity, together with our holy Pope N. and our Bishop N. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ thy Son : who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God for ever and ever.
R. Amen. R. Amen.
Ending according to the 1975 Missal: Ending according to the 1975 Missal:
O vere beata nox, in qua terrenis caelestia, humanis divina iunguntur! O truly blessed night, in which heaven is united to earth, and God to man!
Oramus ergo te, Domine, ut cereus iste in honorem tui nominis consecratus, ad noctis huius caliginem destruendam, indeficiens perseveret. Et in odorem suavitatis acceptus, supernis luminaribus misceatur. Flammas eius lucifer matutinus inveniat: Ille, inquam, lucifer, qui nescit occasum: Christus Filius tuus, qui regressus ab inferis, humano generi serenus illuxit, et vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum. We beseech thee therefore, O Lord, that this candle, consecrated to the honor of thy name, may continue burning to dissipate the darkness this night. And being accepted as a sweet savor, may be united with the celestial lights. Let the morning star find it alight, that star which never sets: Christ Thy Son, who came back from hell, and shone with brightness on mankind, and who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever.
R. Amen. R. Amen.

Harrowing of Hell

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Harrowing of Hell

This is the Old English and Middle English term for the triumphant descent of Christ into hell (or Hades) between the time of His Crucifixion and His Resurrection, when, according to Christian belief, He brought salvation to the souls held captive there since the beginning of the world. According to the “New English Dictionary” the word Harrowing in the above connection first occurs in Aelfric’s homilies, about A.D. 1000; but, long before this, the descent into hell had been related in the Old English poems connected with the name of Caedmon and Cynewulf. Writers of Old English prose homilies and lives of saints continually employ the subject, but it is in medieval English literature that it is most fully found, both in prose and verse, and particularly in the drama. Art and literature all through Europe had from early times embodied in many forms the Descent into Hell, and specimens plays upon this theme in various European literatures still exist, but it is in Middle English dramatic literature that we find the fullest and most dramatic development of the subject. The earliest specimen extant of the English religious drama is upon the Harrowing of Hell, and the four great cycles of English mystery plays each devote to it a separate scene. It is found also in the ancient Cornish plays. These medieval versions of the story, while ultimately based upon the New Testament and the Fathers, have yet, in their details, been found to proceed from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, the literary form of a part of which is said to date back to the second or third century. In its Latin form this “gospel” was known in England from a very early time; Bede and other Old English writers are said to show intimate acquaintance with it. English translations were made of it in the Middle Ages, and in the long Middle English poem known as “Cursor Mundi” a paraphrase of it is found.

EARLY ENGLISH TEXT SOCIETY, The Middle English Harrowing of Hell and Gospel of Nicodemus, ed. HULME (London, 1908), in which will be found a full bibliography of the whole subject.

Holy Saturday Meditation

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Holy Saturday

Meditation: The Burial of Our Lord

Reflection: Be present in spirit at the descent from the cross and the burial of Jesus. 
Ask for grace to pass this the last day of Lent holily.

“And after these things, [an hour after the death of our Lord,] Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore, and took away the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus also came, he who at first came to Jesus by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now there was, in the place where He was crucified, a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man yet had been laid. There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” (St. John 19: 38-42.)

Consideration: Behold the mournful scene at the foot of the cross: the crowd and the soldiers are already gone, the three Marys and the Apostle St. John are left alone. How were they to remove the body of Jesus from the cross? Where find Him a sepulchre? And there was yet another and a greater difficulty; for it was forbidden by the Jewish law to inter the bodies of criminals until the flesh had been consumed, and for this purpose it was customary to cast them into an open trench. At length God sends two men to their help, two who before their conversion were weak and fearful, but whom grace has made bold and resolute: they mount the ladders, they remove the nails that pierce that sacred body. Their hands unfasten Jesus and place Him in the arms of His Blessed Mother; it is they, too, who aid this most sorrowful Mother to bind His sacred body in linen cloths, enriched with spices, and who place it at last in the glorious sepulchre of which Isaias had spoken in prophecy, “And His sepulchre shall be glorious.” (Isaias 11: 10.)

Consider here, how God acted toward His well-beloved Son; He who was formerly humbled and abandoned is now honored and cared for after death. So will God act toward us if we humbly and lovingly resign ourselves to His will in adversity. Have we done so hitherto? I will offer myself to suffer, and even to die for Jesus, who died for me. I will endeavor, notwithstanding the additional cares inseparable from the eve of a Festival, to spend this day in holy recollection.

“And the next day, which followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying, Sir, we have remembered that that seducer said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, the sepulchre to be guarded until the third day, lest perhaps His disciples come and steal Him away, and say to the people, He is risen from the dead. And the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said to them, You have a guard; go, guard it as you know. And they, departing, made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting guards.” (St. Matt. 27: 62-66.)

Consideration: Admire the providence of God in all these circumstances: in the new sepulchre, near where our Lord was crucified, hewn out of a rock, as well as the sealing of the stone and placing a guard; the precautions taken by His enemies making it impossible even to approach Him in His grave. Our Lord permitted it, to place the truth of His resurrection beyond dispute–a truth which is the basis of His Gospel.

We believe in an ever-working Providence: far be it from us to look on events here below as chances or accidents; far from us that despondency which occasionally overpowers the most devoted servants of our Lord at beholding the temporary triumphs of impiety. It was when the disciples of Jesus thought all was lost, that their Master overcame the grave and confounded His enemies forever. Far from us also that melancholy which the sight of death or a funeral sometimes produces: let us conquer it by the consoling thought of the resurrection, from which we shall pass, as did our Lord, from death unto life eternal.

Colloquy with Jesus, whose body apart from the soul, but still united to His Divinity, reposes in the sepulchre. In spirit join the angels who praise and adore Him with inexpressible sentiments of love, reverence, and devotion.

Deus, qui pro Redemptione

O God, who to redeem the world didst vouchsafe to be born amongst men, to be circumcised, rejected by the Jews, betrayed by the traitor Judas with a kiss, to be bound with cords, and as an innocent lamb to be led to the slaughter; who didst suffer thyself to be shamelessly exposed to the gaze of Annas, Caiphas, Pilate and Herod; to be accused by false witnesses, tormented by scourges and insults, crowned with thorns, smitten with blows, defiled with spittings, to have thy divine countenance covered, to be struck with a reed, to be stripped of thy clothes, nailed to and raised high upon a Cross between two thieves, to be given gall and vinegar to drink, and then pierced with a lance; do Thou, O Lord, by these most sacred sufferings, which I, unworthy as I am, yet dare to contemplate, by thy holy Cross and by thy bitter Death, free me from the pains of hell, and vouchsafe to bring me to Paradise, whither Thou didst lead the thief who was crucified with Thee, my Jesus, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.

Pater, Ave and Gloria five times.

(An Indulgence of 300 Days, 1820)