minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the category “Lent”

Missa – of the Catechumens

Singers at a Lecturn

Singers at a Lecturn

The first major section of the mass is the Liturgy of the Word. The Introductory Rites, which begin the Mass, only take several minutes to complete and are no less important. However, the mass is now going to change focus from confession and praise to being silent and listening to the Word of God as found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

The Liturgy of the Word was formerly called the Liturgy of the Catechumens. This was the part of mass for those coming into the faith, preparing for the Sacrament of Baptism and not yet initiated into the Sacred Mysteries. They would attend the first part of the mass, and upon it’s completion, the Catechumens would depart with a blessing as they went to pray and learn. You may see during certain masses, especially during Lent, where those who are preparing to come into the church during the Easter Vigil, go through a series of “Scrutinies”. They will take place at the completion of the Liturgy of the Word, and the Catechumen and their sponsor will depart to discuss the readings from the Mass for the day.

While this still takes place today, in a process we call the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, it is a practice that comes from very early in the church. In fact, it was a very important tradition during periods of persecution. To protect the church from being found out by enemies, which then had some very serious consequences, the church used this practice of sponsorship. If a person wanted to become a christian they would have a sponsor vouch for them. They would come to the learn about the faith and be prepared for partaking of the Eucharist over a long period of time (up to 4 years), not only to teach them about the faith but to make sure they were not sent in to expose the christians. Scrutinies as well as excorcisms would be performed to prepare those coming in and to free them from former gods and beliefs which were held in the pantheistic religions of the day. Excorcisms, mind you, were not the faddish, demonic, and sensational events which are popular today because of certain movies. Rather they were a series of prayers, confessions, and gestures, denouncing Satan and confessing Christ.

The idea of sponsorship ties in with the practice of “god parents”. They are basically god parents for adults, or rather god parents are sponsors for those born into the faith. They have similar responsibilities to insure the bringing up of the child in the faith.hmc_liturgy_det

The Liturgy of the Word/Catechumens, was ideal for this task. It allowed the initiates to hear the Sacred Scriptures, which explained the beliefs and reasons for the traditions held by the church. Over the period of time which a catechumen would participate, vast sections of the Sacred Scripture would have been covered, which in those days was very important. After all there were no Bible Book Stores where you could go purchase a bible for personal use; and even if you could, chances were you couldn’t read it. Many were illiterate and because of this, even for those in full communion, the Liturgy of the Word, along with Iconography in the church brought the Word of God to the people. It is interesting that over a three year period, if you attended every mass, daily as well as Sunday, it is estimated that you would have heard over 70% of the New and 16% of the Old. While this isn’t a complete reading of Scripture, it is substantial. However, it is important to fill in those gaps with personal reading and study of the bible as well. Other devotions like the Liturgy of the Hours would also provide additional readings from Scripture.

As the Liturgy of the Word begins, the congregation will take a seat and simply listen to the Sacred Scriptures.


stock-photo-stained-glass-windows-and-votive-candles-in-a-catholic-church-47286904If there is one thing that can be said about the catholic church which is true whether said by it members or it opponents, it must be the fact that catholics sure like their candles. I remember several times being presented a list of reasons why the catholic church is false, which listed dozens of inventions of the church that apparently the person handing me this information hadn’t really read or thought about. I have found that more often than not, it is the catholic who has to do the homework for such people, which meant I had to explain why all of these criticisms were wrong to begin with. The problem with this list of catholic inventions, is that its merely the result of another invention not made by the church, and that is the “Protestant invention of Sola Scriptura (16th century)”. It is hard for those who hold such a belief to grasp the real history of the church as it developed over the centuries and as such they pick out points in this developement process which they disagree with and call it an “invention”, then imply that this is proof against the church. I will usually start by pointing out that the such things as the “Doctrine of the Trinity (2nd-3rd century)” or the “Canon of Scripture (3rd-4th century)” should also be considered “inventions” since they came from the same church and in the same centuries as other inventions.

However the point of all this isn’t about apologetics, rather it is about the use of candles, which makes it on the list of catholic inventions. apparently the use of candles during worship is “an invention” of the catholic church from the year 320 AD. This, as mentioned, isn’t really true. Candles were used in Jewish worship long before this, and even if this were not the case, it should be obvious that candles in a utilitarian way would simply provide light.  But it is this criticism that demonstrates an attitude or maybe even a stereotype about the catholic and the candle. And in this there is some truth. Catholic use candles during Mass; at home; to symbolize the Holy Spirit; during the Easter vigil and at shrines. Candles present to us an idea or image of light and life. They can be a symbol of Jesus, the Light of the World; they can represent our prayers; they are even used to draw attention to objects such as the Scriptures or the Eucharist during Liturgy.

Tenebrae candle hearse

Tenebrae candle hearse

The Tenebrae is a service which is celebrated during the Lenten season and is another example of the use of candles. The word tenebrae is from Latin and translates as “darkness”.  Like the Stations of the Cross, which is also a Lenten service in the catholic church, the Tenebrae service tells the story of the Passion of Christ. The church is lit by a set of candles, which after psalms and readings from the Gospel will be extinguished one by one as the story continues. The last candle is hidden or extinguished as the Passion ends with the death of Jesus. The service grows darker and darker until that last candle is left, a single point of light which we all know will soon be removed. The candle will then be replaced to symbolize the resurrection. It is a quiet observance and all depart in silence. The imagery and presentation of this particular service is wonderful. Like so much of the catholic faith, it ties in the spiritual with the physical, to present the story of the Gospel. For those who choose to see life through a more mystical or contemplative worldview, such devotions can open up even greater ideas. It can place me at Calvary, a participant in the Passion. It also reminds me of Gods covenant with Abraham where in the darkness of night a flaming torch and smoking fire pot entered the area of sacrifice (Gen 15). Moses and the burning bush. And especially when the last candle is remaining, and the Gospel reading tells of the death of Jesus, the last flame is like a star shining in the night sky, even that star which appeared in the sky heralding His Birth.

The use of candles in worship, as well as other catholic devotions, are one of the great things about the church. It may be a criticism from some but in the end I will take the candle over the “Protestant invention of using lightbulbs during worship c1900 AD.” any day of the week.

Missa – The Great Doxology

image002Following the Kyrie in the “Order of the Mass” is the Gloria. Taking it’s cue from the praise of the angels at the Nativity who sang: “Gloria, in excelsis Deo”, which translates as “Glory to God in the Highest”, this hymn of praise is a beautiful example of the ancient trinitarian doctrine expressed through poem. In a way it could almost be considered the Creed in the form of a prayer. The Gloria is known as the Great Doxology which is contrast to another popular prayer known as the “Glory be”, which is the “Minor Doxology”.

A Doxology is typically a song or psalm which in the christian church was sung to the Trinity. The word comes from the Greek doxa – “glory” and logia – “saying”, an in early church years these hymns find their birth. Some of these were done in attempts to imitate the psalms from the Hebrew Scripture and are termed private psalms (psalmi idiotici).

To my the Gloria follows other creedal statements, it begins with a statement which addresses God, and then begins to focus on definition as attention is drawn to the Father and continues to the Son and follows with the Holy Spirit. The Gloria uses terms which we have seen already and will see again in the mass, hinting back to the Kyrie and looking forward to the Creed and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

An interesting thing about the Gloria is that it is part of the “ordinary” but during Advent and Lent is absent from the liturgy. This is to emphasize the importance of the holidays which follow both preparation seasons, Christmas and Easter. For the layman in me it works. It’s like a surprise or a visit from an old friend. At Christmas, I can sing with the angels: Gloria in excelsis Deo… and at Easter I can sing Gloria as I celebrate the resurrection of the Lamb.


Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory.
Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
you are seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on us.For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. AmenCristo%20na%20Cruz

Lux In Tenebris Lucet

The Easter Vigil Mass

Tonight is when Catholics celebrate the Easter Vigil. It is probably the longest mass, sometimes lasting three or more hours, but without a doubt is the most beautiful of celebrations as the imagery of darkness and light, of creation, baptism, resurrection, are all contained in this vigil of vigils.

The service begins in darkness. Fire is made and from this the Paschal Candle is lit. This candle is used through out the Easter season and will be present throughout the year for special services such as baptisms and funerals. From the Paschal Candle the flame will be passed onto the rest of the congregation, who holding candles will pass this light on to those next to them, eventually illuminating the celebration with the light that from one candle has spread to all. Several passages from the Hebrew Scriptures are then read as the Liturgy of the Word begins. The focus is on rebirth with the symbol of spirit and water. The Creation, the Flood, and scriptures are read, until the lights go on and the Gloria is sung for the first time (except on Maundy Thursday) since the beginning of Lent. The stone of Christs tomb has been rolled away.

The Empty Tomb. Fragment from a Psalter.

The mass continues as the baptismal font is blessed with the Paschal Candle, and those who have been preparing to come into the church are baptized and anointed with oil, after which the celebration of the Eucharist is held and those who have just been baptized receive that most Blessed Sacrament.

It is without a doubt my favourite mass of the year, so rich in symbolism and beauty. But there is another reason why I particularly enjoy this mass which comes from a story in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The story comes from Genesis 15 when God makes a covenant with that father of the Hebrew faith, Abraham. Out in the darkness, having prepared a sacrifice, Abraham waits for God. I can imagine the night, black and star scattered, where the lonely Abraham awaits the Lord. Then in the darkness appears a light, “a smoking furnace and lamp of fire”, passing through the sacrifice. And the Most High God, makes a covenant with Abraham.

The story has always awed me, because there is a certain fearful mystery that surrounds it. Haunting, powerful, and holy. It is the darkness of a lonely desert where you can look up into the pure heavens, as if peering over the edge of a cliff into a black sea with no bottom. But then light approaches, chasing away the darkness and bringing peace. The shadows are cast aside, as holy light is revealed.

John 1:4-5

 In ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominum :

et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt.

 In him was life: and the life was the light of men. 

 And the light shines in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it.

At the first Easter Vigil I attended, it was this most of all which I came away with. An answer to this mysterious tale from the book of Genesis and what it means for me.

Mandatum Novum

The Last Supper from the Bedford Hours - 15th century

The Feast of Holy Thursday begin the Easter Triduum, which will last until evening on Easter. These are the most important days in the liturgical year, focussing on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. The first day (Holy Thursday) holds several significant stories from the Gospels, which are incorporated in the celebration. Primarily it commemorates the institution of the Eucharist by Christ at the Last Supper, which I would guess most people are familiar with. It is probably one of the most popular and iconic scenes from the christian faith next to the Crucifixion and the Nativity.

A lesser known practice during the Feast has to do with another part of the story which takes place on the same night. This is the washing of the disciples feet. In the Gospel of John we read that after supper washed the disciples feet, teaching that the greatest must be a servant to all. If Jesus, being their Master and Teacher, has taken on the role of a servant, so must they. And here an amazing thing happens. Jesus gives a new commandment:

John 13:34-35    A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.

John 13:34 “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos….

The latin for  the word commandment is mandatum and this is where Holy Thursday’s alternate name of Maundy Thursday is thought to come from. As such the pedilavarum or washing of feet is practiced on this day on Holy or Maundy Thursday by priest and pope alike.

In the picture above, which is from the Bedford Hours, you can see the Last Supper as the main scene and on the right three smaller scenes, showing the correlation to the Eucharist/Communion, the washing of the disciples feet and  at the bottom; Judas betraying the Lord with a kiss.


Cross Covered in Purple during Passiontide

One of customs practiced during Lent is the covering of the Cross and statues/images with purple cloths. This occurs during the last two weeks before Easter. In older days this time called Passiontide and started on Passion Sunday, which was the 5th sunday of the Lenten season. Passiontide would end on Good Friday. Some churches still celebrate Passiontide, but in the Catholic church the name is no longer used even though the tradition is still practiced.

There are a few ideas behind the covering of these objects during this time. The first is to take focus off of the churches ornamentation and to bring attention to the penitential season of Lent, focusing on the Passion of Christ only. The Cross is also covered and will be revealed again on Good Friday, to emphasize Christ bearing the Cross on that day. Another way the covering reminds us of the passion concerns the Gospel account of the curtain being torn in the Temple in Jerusalem at Christs death.

Mark 15:37-39 And Jesus, having cried out with a loud voice, gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom. And the centurion who stood over against him, seeing that crying out in this manner he had given up the ghost said: Indeed this man was the son of God.

Dominica Palmarum

Illuminated manuscript- Christ's entry into Jerusalem 15th century

The celebration of the mass begins with the entrance procession as the priest and company proceed to the altar and prepare for the liturgical service. The procession is usually accompanied by the Introit or entrance hymn, or for certain days like Palm Sunday will be accompanied by an antiphon. I cannot help but to be reminded of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem the week before the resurrection. Crowds gathered and waved palm branches at his approach, saying Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Palm Sunday, (Dominica palmarum) which is the sixth and last Sunday of Lent, is when the church remembers this event. Palms will be blessed and distributed to the congregation. The palms are considered sacramentals and will be saved until the next year when they are used to prepare ashes for Ash Wednesday. And while every mass begins with the imagery of Christ entering Jerusalem, in what is sometimes termed as the triumphal entry; on Palm Sunday, with palm fronds waving and voices raised, the image is at its clearest.

An antiphon for Palm Sunday

Hosanna Filio David,

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Rex Israel: Hosanna in excelsis.

English translation:

Hosanna Son of David:

Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.

Israels King: Hosanna in the highest.


April from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

April comes along as the fourth month of the year, but in ancient times was the second. The origin of the name for April is unknown, but some theories suggest that it comes from the Latin verb Aperire which means “to open”. The spring equinox having just passed, April would see the first signs of the coming summer as plants would begin to “open up” and flower. Another possible explanation would tie April to Aphrilis, a Latin rendering of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite.

Le Château de Dourdan today.

Continuing in the theme of using the months from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry book of hours, the scene above for the month of April shows a couple exchanging engagement rings in the presence of their parents. Women pick flowers and trees are now clothed in green. In the background is the Chateau de Dourdan. Built in the 13th century (1220’s), it became the property of the Duke of Berry in 1385.

April has several holidays, one of which is an old Roman holiday known as the Natalis urbis Romae (The birthday of Rome) was celebrated on the 21st of April. Rome was founded sometime during the 8th century B.C. between 728 and 758.

Another lesser known holiday is the holiday of the Lucky Fool, which lands on April the 7th. April starts with the fools day and seven is called the lucky number. If you haven’t heard of this holiday that’s probably because it’s only about 43 years old, and was first celebrated in 1969.

The Christian holiday of Easter (Pascha in eastern christianity) usually lands on a day during the month of April, though it can come as early as March 22, for western churches. The differences between the east and west for their dates of Easter come from methods of dating and the calendars used, the Gregorian or Julian. Regardless, the holiday celebrating the Resurrection is the central holiday in the church, ending the Lenten season and beginning Eastertide, which will last until Pentecost Sunday. For all christian people this is the central theme of their religion. In relation to this is a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien, who created a word called Euchatastrophe. The term means a sudden turn of events which occur in a story where the hero is spared certain doom. Tolkien claimed that the “The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in Joy.”

The week before Easter is known as Holy Week, and begins with Palm Sunday which will be on April 1st this year. Holy Thursday ends the Lenten season and the period from evening on Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday is known as the Paschal Triduum and remembers the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Feasts from the General Roman Calendar for the month of April are:

1. Palm Sunday, Sunday
5. Holy Thursday, Triduum
6. Good Friday, Triduum
7. Holy Saturday, Triduum
8. Easter Sunday, Solemnity
9. Easter Monday, Solemnity
10. Easter Tuesday, Solemnity
11. Easter Wednesday, Solemnity
12. Easter Thursday, Solemnity
13. Easter Friday, Solemnity
14. Easter Saturday, Solemnity
15. Divine Mercy Sunday, Solemnity
21. Anselm, Opt. Mem.
22. Third Sunday of Easter, Sunday
23. George; Adalbert, Opt. Mem.
24. St. Fidelis, Opt. Mem.
25. St. Mark, Feast
28. Peter Chanel (NZ, Feast); Louis Mary de Montfort; Gianna Molla, mother (Italy), Opt. Mem.
29. Fourth Sunday of Easter, Sunday
30. Pius V; Bl. Marie de l’Incarnacion (Can), Memorial

Laetere Sunday

Laetere Sunday is the name of the fourth sunday in the Lenten season. Like its counterpart in Advent , Gaudete Sunday, Laetere marks the mid-point of the Lenten journey and reminds us of the events soon to take place. There are usually flowers at mass on this day, which are absent through the rest of Lent because of the fast. Also the vestments and colors, normally purple through the season are for a day changed to the color rose. The mass starts with the words “Laetere Jerusalem” which means “Rejoice! Jerusalem” or “O’ be joyful, Jerusalem” and is that first hint of Easter and Resurrection soon to come.

The Introit or opening of the Liturgy begins:

Laetare Jerusalem:
 et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam:
 gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis:
 ut exsultetis,et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.
 Psalm Laetatus
 sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi:
 in domum Domini ibimus.

Rejoice, O Jerusalem:
and come together all you that love her:
rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow:
that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.
Psalm: I rejoiced when they said to me:
“we shall go to God’s House!

Pysanka at home


Well after blogging about Ukrainian Eggs, I went out and ordered an art kit to make some at home with the kids. I found a good kit with 12 colors, 3 stylus, beeswax and some directions at I also bought a few wooden egg stands.

Years ago while living on Kodiak island in Alaska, a friend introduced this style of egg dying to me. Since then I have made eggs several times, for Easter as well as Christmas. They make excellent Christmas Tree bulbs if you thread a string through the blow holes.

This is the first time my kids have tried their hands at making Pysanka, and they have been loving it. It takes about two hours to complete an egg. The process takes a bit and you do need to think ahead, choosing colors and adding wax but the end is always fun; melting away the wax to reveal the colors underneath.


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