Fourth Day: The Gift of Fortitude
Thou in toil art comfort sweet
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
By the gift of Fortitude, the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. “He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.”
Third Day: The Gift of Piety
Thou, of all consolers best,
Visiting the troubled breast
Dost refreshing peace bestow
The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.
Second Day: The Gift of Fear
Come, Thou Father of the poor!
Come, with treasures which endure!
Come, Thou Light of all that live!
The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by Sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. “They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls.”
First Day: The Holy Ghost
Holy Spirit! Lord of light!
From Thy clear celestial height,
Thy pure beaming radiance give!
Only one thing is important — eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared — sin. Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts, He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation, we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for “The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us. Continue reading
Earlier this week on the 8th, we celebrated a lesser known feast of St. Michael the Archangel, no longer on the liturgical calendar, which commemorates his appearance in a cave on Mount Gargano in Italy in the fifth century. We first posted this two years ago but wanted to share it with you again. Here is the story behind the feast, according to Dom Gueranger:
A celebrated apparition of the Archangel took place, under the Pontificate of Gelasius I, in Apulia, on the top of Mount Gargano, at whose foot lies the town of Siponto.
A bull belonging to a man who lived on the mountain, having strayed from the herd, was, after much searching, found hemmed fast in the mouth of a cave. One of its pursuers shot an arrow, with a view to rouse the animal by a wound; but the arrow rebounding struck him that sent it. This circumstance excited so much fear in the bystanders and in them who heard of it, that no one dared to go near the cave. The inhabitants of Siponto, therefore, consulted the Bishop; he answered that in order to know God’s will, they must spend three days in fasting and prayer. Continue reading
In a tomb they laid You, O Christ the Life. The angelic hosts were overcome with awe and glorified Your condescension.
O Life, how can You die? How can You dwell in a tomb? Yet by Your death You have destroyed the reign of death and raised all the dead from Hell.
The music of Holy Week is the most beautiful of all the liturgical year, whether in the Western Church or the East, or in the Orthodox Church. The words above are taken from the Lamentations for Holy and Great Saturday in the Orthodox Church. These are sung as part of the Matins of Great and Holy Saturday, during a unique service that takes place on Good Friday evening.
A tomb festooned with flowers is erected in the church upon which is placed a life-sized icon of the dead Savior, called the epitaphios, or winding sheet, around which the service is centered. You can read more about the service here. One beautiful part which struck us is that after a procession around the outside of the church with the epitaphios, the faithful enter the church again by passing under the icon, signifying their entrance into the death and resurrection of Christ.
As with so much of the Eastern and Orthodox liturgy, the words of the many chants are poetic and sublime. Below are the three Lamentations sung professionally by a Greek Orthodox Church in California. They make an ethereal and contemplative background for your Holy Saturday as you prepare for the Mother of All Feasts tonight, the Easter Vigil.
The words (though not this exact translation) of the Lamentations, as well as many of the other Holy Week chants may be found here.
The Holy Sacrament Altarpiece, by Dieric Bouts, is an important piece of Flemish art with an interesting story. The work presents the Last Supper in the central panel, surrounded by four panels showing Old Testament pre-figurements of the Eucharist. It was commissioned by the Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament for a church in Leuven, with specific instructions given by the two commissioning theology professors. Unlike traditional depictions of the Last Supper, which show Our Lord announcing the betrayal of Judas, they wanted this painting to depict Our Lord and His apostles at the moment when He first instituted the Eucharist. You can read more about the piece here.
Eucharistic devotion was very strong in the Southern Netherlands, and there were many confraternities there devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, there was a special sort of tabernacle in use in Germany and the Low Countries, called a sacrament house. The Church prohibited them in the 1860s in order to make reservation of the Blessed Sacrament more uniform in tabernacles, but for 400 years they were in use. The oldest known example is in this same church, St Peter’s in Leuven, where the Bouts altarpiece is located. Many sacrament houses were destroyed during the iconoclasm of the reformation, but there are still examples extant, and you also see them in many Flemish paintings, although I must say, I have never really noticed them until now. A sacrament house was a large tower shaped structure, usually located on the north side of the church, intricately carved, sometimes with stairs and a railing leading up to it, where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved. The door had a grille or lattice, so that the Eucharist could be seen at all times.
For our community, Holy Thursday is an important feast: The beginning of the Sacred Triduum, and the day on which Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist. His Real Presence is the Sun around which our lives as adorers revolve. And mixed with the joy of this gift He gives us, we have the sorrow of the Passion, about to begin in earnest after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. For all our PCPA houses this is a sad day because Jesus is removed from the monstrance, removed from the tabernacle, and taken to the altar of repose. And though we follow him there, the open tabernacle is like a gaping wound, there is no mistaking the empty feeling that takes over the darkened chapel during these three days that He is absent. We will follow Him to the Garden, follow Him as He is dragged before His many accusers, Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin; we will follow Him to prison, to Pilate, to Herod, and finally, we will follow Him along the Via Dolorosa, and to Calvary. With Our Lady as Mother and guide, we will accompany Him, in our own inadequate way, throughout the events of our redemption, awaiting His victory over death and hell, and His return to our midst.