The garden leads you directly from one mystery into another, which I like. There are areas for you to sit or kneel for prayer, but the path simply continues to follow in the footsteps of Christ on the road to our salvation.
I really like that.
This set of mysteries is my favorite of the bunch. I just love the expressions of Christ. The artists did a fantastic job. They really, really did.
The Scourging was a little sad and confusing for Vincent. He couldn't understand why Jesus ("a good guy") had His Hands tied up. Vincent went behind Him and tried to undo the rocky tethers that bound Him. I explained that Jesus wasn't trapped anymore, but that when He was on earth, He took the beating so that His friends didn't have to. That made Him a hero to everyone. Vincent understood that, but it left him kinda quiet for the next couple minutes.
The Crowning with Thorns is simply Christ seated with with a simple robe, His Hands still bound, and a sad (and regal) expression on His Face. The way the artists placed His Hands enables the faithful to leave behind flowers as a sort of scepter. Of the mysteries, I think this is my favorite. It's nothing like the Coronation of Mary, but the way the artists created the two, they obviously parallel one another.
Next was Christ taking up His Cross, and again the expression on His Face is remarkable.
Walking along the path a bit father I saw a huge chapel-like shed which stood directly across from the Nativity "stable" from the Joyful Mysteries. Obviously drawing yet another parallel, the Crucifixion placement and artistry again highlights a theological truth. Christ was born to die on a Cross. He came into the world to die saving it. Incredible.
Stay tuned for the Glorious Mysteries. Hopefully it won't take me a month to cycle back through and update you! :)
Not too often you hear the words "Lent" and "tripod" put together, but it was a concept I introduced a few weeks back to my CCD students.
So often you hear "What are you giving up for Lent?" I wanted them to understand that this wasn't a futile repeat of New Year's resolutions. Lent is a time for sacrifice.
One of my favorite quotes about sacrifice is this:
Love transforms suffering into sacrifice.
According to this, two things must be present for a sacrifice: Love and Suffering.
So for Lent, while they were all trying to figure out what they'd "give up," I asked them to also figure out a specific person or intention they'd be offering that sacrifice for. Giving up candy bars during Lent is great, but if you're just substituting the candy bars with milkshakes, nothing is accomplished.
Instead, if you give up candy bars, use the $.60 you save every day and donate it to the homeless man you pass on the street each day. Put it into a piggy bank and at the end of Lent, use it to buy your little sister that iPad app she's been dying to try. Better yet, secretly use it to buy a slew of your favorite prayer cards / medals and leave them in the back of your parish church for parishioners to share!
Little things add up, and as long as they're adding up to love, they're perfect sacrifices for Lent.
With that in mind, my students started coming up with some great ideas:
These are my favorites. It took a lot of leading, but when they finally arrived at their Lenten gifts (as I've been calling them), I think they really understood the purpose behind the practice.
Once they got this foundation set, I tied it together through Jesus.
We give up things, or sacrifice, for our community out of love. However, we don't do that for ourselves. We do it through Jesus. We unite our sufferings with Jesus' Passion. We don't sacrifice during Lent just because that's what you do during Lent. We do it so Jesus doesn't have to suffer alone. We share the burden with Him.
I likened it to riding a roller coaster for the first time. They all seemed to understand that. None of them wanted to ride a coaster by themselves the first time they went. They were scared! Instead, they asked a friend to come along so they could share the burden of fear.
During Lent, we consent to share the burden of suffering with Jesus. We consent to take part in the Passion, because as the Church, we are members of His Body, and we want to follow where He, the Head, leads us. During Lent, He is leading us to Salvation through the Cross.
It was like a little light bulb clicked over their heads. I started seeing them slowly understanding the concept of sharing in the Lenten journey. Each Mass isn't a recreation of the Passion so much as a time-machine that brings us back to the Foot of the Cross, time and time again. Lent helps us refocus on this by bringing the reality of Christ's Sacrifice into our daily lives (in a much more manageable way).
Just as Christ suffered for love of us, we, too, must suffer for love of others, uniting those sacrifices to the Sacrifice of Christ.
This is the Lenten Tripod analogy I used with my students, and I have to say, I'm really pleased with how well they took that lesson to hear.
Next week we'll check in to see how they're doing with their gifts. :)
This is where I attended Mass on Ascension Thursday.
For those of you who are unaware, St. John Neumann was a bishop of Philadelphia and brought us some incredibly wonderful treasures in his tenure as Archbishop. He opened the door to many religious communities, founded orphanages and schools, and did his best to provide a proper education, healthcare and basic necessities to the many immigrants that made their way through our fair city.
For his great love of Christ and His Church, God bestowed upon this servant the title of Saint. Even more glorious, God worked His grace through St. John by blessing him to be among the Incorruptibles.
St. Peter the Apostle houses a shrine built in his honor. This shrine boasts a small museum of his artifacts and relics, but most importantly, this shrine houses St. John's body beneath an altar.
Enjoy the photos.
I'm not typically a fan of icons, but this one is simply incredible. Christ, seated upon golden arches, is pictured within the mandorla - a triune of circles radiating light that signifies the Divinity of the Trinity (of which Christ is a part). His now glorified Body is wrapped in golden clothes, yet He retains the pink of the mountains (earth) to signify His two natures (Human and Divine). His halo carries the sign of His triumph - the Cross. His Hand is raised in blessing as He holds a scroll in the other.
Though Christ is leaving the Earth to take His rightful place at the right hand of God the Father, He is still the source of blessings and wisdom, as they are sent down to the waiting Church (signified by His mother and the apostles). He is, after all, sitting on what appears to be a bridge. Christ is our bridge to Heaven - He is the only path which leads to salvation.
Speaking of the apostles, they're a jumbled mess. Some critics have said that this is because they are confused and scared. Others have said it was the artist's way of conveying intense grief. I honestly think it's a bit of everything. The apostles were surely grief-stricken at the thought of saying goodbye to their Friend and God again. No doubt His Blessed Mother was besides herself once again as she understood her place was to stay behind to nurture the growing Church.
Her beautiful hands are lifted in supplication to her now glorified Son. She does not look mournful, but she does look expectant. She understands that while Heaven awaits her Son, earth would now await His Return, and she would be first in line!
So while the apostles around her held their heads in grief, or held one another in mid-gasp, Our Lady was already looking forward to the day she would reunite with her Son (whether through His 2nd Coming, or her own passage into Heaven - who knows if she knew which it'd be).
Our Lady is also in a deep crimson red. Red is the color of power - of the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Mother is, after all, "full of grace" and as a result is the most powerful intercessor of all. Flanking her on either side, then, must be Saints Peter and Paul. Though Saint Paul was not present at the actual Ascension (having not had his conversion), the artist probably chose to include him anyway so as to speak of the gentiles the Church would come to encompass.
One final note about Our Lady. She is standing on what appears to be a little square platform. I thought about this for a bit, and I assume it's meant to symbolize that though Mary was left in the world, she was not of it. She is there, but she's above it - closer in union to Her Son through her holiness. There's a story from her childhood in which her mother, St. Anne, wouldn't allow the Blessed Virgin's feet to touch the floor until she was three years old (some cultures still have this practice). The earth is impure, so to have Our Lady standing above it a bit... I wonder if that's significant of her holiness and grace.
Anyway, it's a beautiful image celebrating a beautiful day. Today, 40 days after Easter, is when Christ once again reunited with His Father in Heaven. We celebrate not only His glorious ascension, but the fact that He will come again... in the same glory He ascended with!
Blessed be, blessed be, blessed be. :)
So this question came up both in my CCD class and in an open forum for adults last week.
I wasn't surprised to see it in my CCD class. They're sixth grades. However, I was surprised that it cropped up in the forum from a well-versed Catholic adult!
So I figured I'd share my answer here since it's a more prevalent question than I'd realized.
We technically have the Romans to thank for the title of "Good Friday."
See, back when the St. Paul started preaching the "good news" of Jesus Christ, there was another word you might be familiar with in constant use... "gospel."
Before us Christians usurped it as our own, the word "gospel" had a very specific connotation. Since Rome enjoyed conquering every community known to man, they were frequently in far-off places fighting a variety of different people. As a result, they needed fast couriers to let the various generals (and Caesar) know if they were winning or needed backup.
When these couriers skitted back to the capital with news of a victory, they called it the "euangelion" (which is actually the Greek word for evangelization or "bringing good news"). The good news was victory for the people. Oddly enough, it also referenced the official laws and privileges that these new Roman citizens could be assured of if they played nice and followed Roman authority. That, in turn, was the actual "gospel."
So apply this knowledge to what our Christian gospel actually is. St. Paul describes it best as the death and resurrection of Jesus. From the Throne of the Cross, Christ defeated the enemy and assured salvation for those who would accept His Authority. It makes perfect sense, then, why we would consider that first Good Friday to be "Good." It was the true trumpet of humanity's "gospel." That act secured for us victory in addition to the privileges that come with being a child of God.
As the years went on, this word was picked up and converted into "Godspel." It was a Germanic combination of "God / good" and "story / message." That's why most of us today understand the word to mean "Good News." Originally, however, it meant an entire group of people were welcomed into the fold with privileges and rewards so long as they agreed to abide by the authority of the one who conquered their territory.
In other words, Jesus came to earth, conquered it through His Passion, Death and Resurrection, and gained for us the inheritance of eternal life so long as we submit to His Will (which is nothing more than loving one another as He, Himself, has loved).
This image is incredible!
I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I know I promised to answer Laura's question yesterday, but as soon as I buckled down to write, I got a call from Vincent's daycare. Poor little guy has a tummy bug, so I needed to pick him up and take him home.
Today, however, Daddy's with him. That means Mommy can answer Laura in peace!
Anyway, in order to understand the answer, I must first explain what the Triduum is. For Catholics, the Triduum is the holiest time in our Liturgical Calendar. It is the most important part of Salvation History as Christ, in those three days, fulfilled the promise of God when He said He would send a Savior who would reconcile humanity to Himself.
The Triduum, thus, becomes Holy Thursday Mass (when we remember the Last Supper), Holy Saturday (when we remember Christ's descent into Hell), through the Easter Vigil and Easter celebrations (when we remember His Glorious Resurrection and triumph over Death).
Anyway, since this is the most sacred part of the year for the Church - the finite point in linear history that somehow encapsulates the timeless Sacrifice of Christ - our Liturgy reflects our solemn, adoring and anguished spirit. We see ourselves, the Church, as dying WITH Christ.
This is also why throughout Lent, things are slowly removed from our Masses. Statues are draped (or even removed), fewer candles are lit, our beautiful "Alleluia" is laid to rest, and floral arrangements are typically absent.
As I explained to my children, something very special happens after Holy Thursday Mass. The priest removes Christ from the tabernacle and processes with Him to a place of repose. This signifies that Christ has begun His Sacrifice (which truly did begin with the moment of Consecration at the Last Supper - more on that in a bit).
The Mass on Holy Thursday does not "end." There is no "Go forth" or "Thanks be to God." There is only the procession of Christ to His place of repose and the silent, prayerful adoration of the faithful that stay watch with Him as He endures His Passion (akin to the Apostles as Christ led them to the Garden of Gethsemane to keep watch as He began His Agony in the Garden).
In fact, to further this point, after the Procession, the Church is stripped bare. Linens are removed from the pulpit, altar, tabernacle, etc. Furniture (like chairs, microphones, lecterns, etc) are taken into the sacristy. Candles aren't just snuffed out - they are removed entirely. Carpets are rolled away. Remaining statues may be taken down. Every movable object is taken away from our sanctuary and all lights (be they candles, spot-lights or chandeliers) are deadened. Our Church, symbolic of the spirit of all the faithful who create Her, dies with Her Master. He who is the Light of the World is consenting to become obscured and entombed.
As His faithful Spouse, we acknowledge our desolation... our mourning... our grief.
On Good Friday, there is "no Mass." Again, this is because technically, the Mass from Holy Thursday has not ended - nor will it until the close of the Vigil on Holy Saturday. Instead, we continue the Mass through Stations of the Cross, Adoration, communal and private meditation, recitation of the Rosary (specifically the Sorrowful Mysteries), Tenebrae etc.
This is to signify that we, the Church, the faithful Bride of Christ, follow Him on His Path towards Salvation. We consent to die with Him in order to take part in His Resurrection.
This moves us to Holy Saturday. On Holy Saturday, we remember in a special way Christ's descent into Hell, Limbo and Purgatory. We remember His Triumphant opening of the Gates of Heaven that were closed against us as a result of Original Sin. There is actually no "liturgy" for Holy Saturday until the vigil. This is a continuation of Christ's Sacrifice which began during Holy Thursday.
Finally, we arrive at our Easter Vigil. This special vigil is held after sundown. This is significant because this darkness is indicative of the spiritual darkness we are experiencing as we await the Light of the World. Again, this vigil does not start with the typical "opening Mass prayers" we're used to. Instead, the priest blesses a special fire which is typically made of Holy Oils from the previous year, salt, and twigs. This special fire is the first light we see and is symbolic of the Resurrection. This light is what's used to light our brand new Paschal Candle (the Christ Candle), and after the Candle is lit, the light begins to spread throughout the Church, from member to member, as a flame is passed between individual candles all are given at the opening of Mass.
As a sacristan who has been at the front of the Church awaiting the Exsultet (when we flip on all the lights, light all the candles, and bust out all the finery we've got to offer), seeing this light slowly spread throughout the entire Church... it's incredible.
Anyway, this is the point in the Liturgical Calendar in which we celebrate and acknowledge Christ's Triumph over Death. The Sacrifice has been complete and Salvation has been granted to us. Through His Offering, we have become reconciled and all the promises of God the Father to His Creation regarding the Messiah have been fulfilled. We rejoice in being reborn through His Death and Resurrection.
As THIS VIGIL MASS commences, we finally are able to hear again the priest's command to "Go Forth" and respond with a jubilant "Thanks be to God!" We acknowledge that the sacred Triduum that marks Christ's Sacrifice has reached its fulfillment, and we take our charge to "Go Forth" with zeal. We are charged to take the message of Salvation to all people who still "live in darkness."
So that, dear Laura, is why the answer to number 11 on the test was "One." There is but one Mass celebrated over 3 days during the Triduum.
As these three days recall the three long days of Christ's consummation by the Fire of His Love, we, too, offer these three days in solidarity with Him.
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