“Mondays with Mary” – Christ’s Friendship with the Priest and Mary’s Role In It

Since yesterday was the 50th Day of Prayer for Vocations and Good Shepherd Sunday, today’s “Mondays with Mary” comes from the Holy Thursday Letter of Blessed John Paul II – Behold Your Mother: Mary in the Life of the Priest. As many of you know, I have a great devotion to Blessed John Paul II and have written about him many times on this blog. He is the one “Blessed” that I go too most often when asking for the intercession of prayers.

Fr. Karol Wojtyla counseled many couples preparing for marriage. He also gave us the Theology of the Body. This great body of work is already making large waves in the Catholic Church and will continue to be a major foundation of support for those looking to love their spouses (as man and woman) with the dignity we all deserve. If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of Body, contact the Catholic Publisher – Ascension Press. They offer fantastic trainings for individuals who want to know more about TOB and other Catholic topics.

The below excerpt is from the paragraph 6 in the aforementioned letter by Blessed John Paul II -

“Meeting today, on Holy Thursday, at the birthplace of our priesthood, we desire to read its fullest meaning through the prism of the Council teaching about the Church and her mission.The figure of the Mother of God belongs to this teaching in its entirety, as do the reflections of the present meditation. Speaking from the cross on Golgotha, Christ said to the disciple: “Behold, your mother.” And the disciple “took her to his own home” as Mother. Let us also take Mary as Mother into the interior “home” of our priesthood. For we belong to the “faithful in whose rebirth and development” the Mother of God “cooperates with a maternal love.” Yes we have, in a certain sense, a special “right” to this love in consideration of the mystery of the Upper Room. Christ said: “No longer do I call you servants…, but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). Without this “friendship” it would be difficult to think that, after the apostles, he would entrust to us the sacrament of his Body and Blood, the sacrament of his redeeming death and resurrection, in order that we might celebrate this ineffable sacrament in his name, indeed, in persona Christi. Without this special “friendship” it would also be difficult to think about Easter evening, when the Risen Lord appeared in the midst of the apostles, saying to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:22-23).

Such a friendship involves a commitment. Such a friendship should instill a holy fear, a much greater sense of responsibility, a much greater readiness to give of oneself all that one can, with the help of God. In the Upper Room such a friendship has been profoundly sealed with the promise of the Paraclete: “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you…He will bear witness to me, and you also are witnesses” (Jn 14:26; 15:26-27).

We always feel unworthy of Christ’s friendship. But it is a good thing that we should have a holy fear of not remaining faithful to it. The Mother of Christ knows all this. She herself has understood most completely the meaning of the words spoken to her during his agony on the cross: “Woman, behold, your son…Behold, your mother.” They referred to her and to the disciple-one of those to whom Christ said in the Upper Room: “You are my friends” (Jn 15:14); they referred to John and to all those who, through the mystery of the Last Supper, share in the same “friendship.” The Mother of God, who (as the Council teaches) cooperates, with a mother’s love, in the rebirth and the training of all those who become brothers of her Son-who become his friends-will do everything in her power so that they may not betray this holy friendship. So that they may be worthy of it.”

Let us pray that our priests will be men of holiness and friendship so they can mirror Jesus Christ. We ask the Blessed Mother to guide them in their priestly ministry so that they can bring save souls for the Kingdom of God. We pray for the intercession of all the saints that are priests, especially Blessed John Paul II, to direct them in the correct practices and disciplines as holy priests. 

No “Mondays with Mary” and Holy Week

Since I was out of town all weekend with my girlfriend and her family, I did not have much time to write for this week’s “Mondays with Mary.” My flight last night that was suppose to land at 10 p.m. did not get in till 12:15 a.m., so to say the least I am a bit tired. Then this morning I found out that since this is the Monday of Holy Week, the Feast of the Annunciation (Feast of the Theotokos in the East) is pushed to April 8. Next week I will focus on St. Francis de Sales on the Annunciation and then on April 8, I will give you some catechesis on the Annunciation itself as well.

Being that we have entered into Holy Week, I present to you four blog posts that I wrote last  year for Holy Week (known as “The Great Week” in the East). There is a part 1, 2, and 3 for the Great Week and then a post on the Crucifixion of Our Lord. I encourage you to read them and share them with your family and friends during this week.

This is a “Great Week” and a “Holy Week.” We now enter into the Lord’s Passion with Him and pray with him on Holy Thursday in the Garden, at the Cross on Good Friday, in the tomb on Holy Saturday…and then REJOICE on Sunday for he has been resurrected from the dead.

Below are the posts for Holy Week -

“The Great Week”, Part I“The Great Week”, Part II“The Great Week”, Part III, and The Crucifixion of Our Lord.

“The Great Week”, Part II

The Sacred Triduum begins with Holy Thursday (Thursday of the Lord’s Supper), the day Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood while he celebrated the Passover Meal with the Apostles and established the NEW Passover (see Luke 22:14-23). Traditionally, this is the day that the Chrism Mass is held, but due to large dioceses these days, it’s difficult for most clergy to travel to the Chrism Mass and then back to their parishes in the same day. The Institution of the Holy Eucharist (now the 5th Luminous Mystery) is the major event we commemorate on this great day. From this day forward, we have Jesus present in the Church – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

During this Holy Mass, we also reenact the washing of the Apostles feet.  This action by Jesus in John 13 is an act of humility and points to the humiliation that he would receive on the cross. He is displaying heroism as the servant-king for the Apostles.  The washing of the Apostles feet more than likely mirrors the washing of Aaron and his son’s feet by Moses in the Book of Exodus, as they become the first of the Levitical Priests. If this is the case, foot-washing can been seen as a sign of priestly ordination. The apostles receive a “part” in Jesus where the Levitical priests received a “portion” of God alone.

Liturgically, Peter J. Elliot, says in his book, Liturgical Question Box, “the washing of the feet of the twelve “men” is specified in the Roman Missal, clearly to represent the twelve apostles.” If permission is granted to include women, Elliot says, then it should be a group of both sexes. Having a group of twelve women is an ideological statement of feminism and ideology never belongs in the sacred liturgy.

On Good Friday, we commemorate the day our LORD sacrificed himself in the perfect sacrifice for our redemption. As the lambs are slaughtered in the Temple so Jesus is slaughtered on the cross. He is the New Lamb of God.  As it has been since the most ancient days of the church, the Holy Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday. The only sacraments that are permitted on this day are Penance (Reconciliation) and Anointing of the Sick.  During the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, we hear the readings (Cycle A, B, C) from Isaiah 52:13—53:12, Psalm 31, Hebrews 4:14-16 5:7-9 and the Gospel of St. John 18:1—19:42.

After a short homily or time in prayer, the Liturgy of the Word ends with “The Solemn Intercessions” – For the Holy Church, For the Pope, For all orders and degrees of the faithful, For the unity of Christians, For the Jewish People, For those who do not believe in Christ, For those who do not believe in God, For those in public office, and For those in tribulation.

After the Solemn Intercessions, there is Adoration of the Holy Cross. The priest(s), deacons and other ministers process with a cross which has been covered with a purple veil (purple is the color for royalty and more than likely the color of the garment the Roman soldiers put on Jesus [King of the Jews]). As the cross is brought forth and held before the altar, the priest (assisted by the Deacon or other ministers) uncovers a little of the cross each time by saying – “Behold the wood of the Cross” (Ecce lignum Crucis) and all respond with the words – “Come let us adore” (Venite, adoremus).  Only one cross should be used for adoration. There have been times (I have experienced this myself) where multiple smaller crosses have been used because of a large gathering. As the book, Liturgical Question Box states, “this is liturgical minimalism – a reduced sign carried out in the easiest way. The goal here is probably to save time. But a Pastor should make it clear to his people that the Good Friday ceremonies will take time, because the Passion and Death of our Savior took time. That is why the Church recommends the afternoon celebration commencing at 3 p.m. We offer our time out of gratitude and love for the One who entered time and died and rose for us in our flesh.”

After the Adoration of the Cross, a altar cloth is spread on the altar as is a corporal and the Missal put in place. The Blessed Sacrament is brought from its place of keeping (from the conclusion of Holy Thursday Mass to this point, the Holy Eucharist is not kept in the Tabernacle).  The Our Father is either sang or recited. After this, Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the celebration of the Lord’s Passion. Since the Holy Mass is not celebrated on this day, more hosts should be consecrated during the Mass on Holy Thursday. Once Communion has ended and the prayer over the people is recited – all depart in silence. Jesus Christ is dead.

Psalm 116 – Walking Before the LORD

This past Sunday in the Roman Liturgy we celebrated the 2nd Sunday of Lent.  The psalm for this past Sunday was Psalm 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19. When I walked into Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary here in Austin for the Noon Liturgy, I was very excited to see that this was the psalm for Sunday since only one month ago I explained this psalm to my students when talking about the Passover Meal celebrated by the Jews.

Psalm 116 finds itself right in the middle of what’s known as the Hallel Psalms (113-118 and is part of the Great Hallel (115-118). The Hallel Psalms were the psalms that were sung during the Passover Meal as the four mandatory cups were drunk (Cup of Sanctification, Cup of Proclamation, Cup of Blessing, and Cup of Praise). Psalm 116 is also known as a Todah psalm (Psalm 22 is the quintessential Todah). The term – Todah - means praise or thanksgiving.  It was a subset of offerings as described in Leviticus 7:11ff. The first seven chapters of Leviticus have to with sacrifice. In Leviticus 7:11, the Todah refers to an animal sacrifice (goat, lamb or bull), three or four kinds of bread offered and leavened bread (verse 13). You would consume the entire animal that you brought on that day. There would be eating all day and all night – essentially it’s a party.

The peace offerings were unique from other kinds of sacrifice because they were non-obligatory; they celebrated a healthy (shalom) relationship between God and the worshipper and other offerings were made as atonement for sin. The peace offerings were made because you were grateful for God and you wanted to celebrate your experience with God. There are many more elements to the Todah, but this is not the post to explain them. If you are interested and want me to explain more of the Todah Sacrifice, make a comment at the bottom of the page.

I will say that the Todah is fulfilled in the Eucharistic Celebration. Psalm 116 is the staple of the Christian liturgy. This psalm is the Todah Sacrifice. The Passover Meal is a Todah Sacrifice. When the Messiah comes, the only sacrifice that will remain is the Todah. The term Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” Allegorically, we can also see the words of this psalm on Jesus’ lips as he celebrates the Last Supper with the Apostles and during his Passion and Death on the cross. Brant Pitre says in his book, Jesus and Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, “this is exactly was Jesus is doing at the Last Supper: he is offering to God the “sacrifice of thanksgiving,” the new “thank offering” (zebah torah), what Greek-speaking Christians would call the “thanksgiving” (eucharistia).” Jesus Christ, at the Last Supper, gives us his body and blood in the Eucharist. It is not merely a symbol!

Now that we have a “basic” understanding of Psalm 116 and the Todah Sacrifice, I would like to turn my attention to the specific verses we either recited or sang on Sunday. Verse 10 is stating that the psalmist is lamenting over something that is happening to him, a suffering of sorts, but he is not losing faith. Actually, he has great hope even in his misfortunes. Victor Frankl understood the importance of hope when dealt with misfortunes since he was liberated from a Nazi concentration camp.  He says in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Man can endure almost any how if only he has a why.”

In verses 15-16, the psalmist is stating that God is concerned with those who fear him and have died in his presence since it’s God that keeps watch over the lives of “saints.” The psalmist views himself as one of these saints. The psalmist realizes he is God’s servant for God has loosened the bonds. This could refer to the bonds of sin or the bonds of slavery in Egypt. The words, “I am your servant…the son of your handmaid…” and “I will lift up the chalice of salvation” (verse 13) can clearly be heard on the lips of Jesus during the Last Supper.  It is Jesus Christ on the cross that would die for our sins and as Christians we see sin as slavery.

In verses 17-19, the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” which reflects the lifting up of the “chalice of salvation” would have occurred in the Temple. The Temple was the place where God dwelled. The payment of vows is a step in the Todah Sacrifice. This payment in the old liturgy of the Roman Rite means that we join in the sacrifice of the liturgy since this is the ideal way that we repay the debt of Our Lord. In the new translation of the Roman Liturgy, during the Presentation and Preparation of the Gifts, the priest says, “Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father” (underline is mine). Although the priest is reciting these words, we the lay faithful also enter into this sacrifice and offer up the sacrifice. The sacrifice is offered by the priest (who is In Persona Christ – In the Person of Christ) but we take part in offering the sacrifice as well.

The Church suggests Psalm 116 as we prepare to enter into the sacrifice of the Holy Mass and receive Jesus Christ’s precious body and blood. The Church recites this psalm during the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ and during the Holy Thursday liturgy.

The Gospel reading for the 3rd Sunday of Lent will add to our understanding of sacrifice and the Temple as Jesus will fulfill the Temple and become the New Temple of the New Covenant. Check back on Friday for my post on all the readings for the 3rd Sunday of Lent.