Fifth Sunday in Lent

Passiontide. Today we cover the statues and crosses as we begin the last two weeks of Lent, called “Passiontide.” At this point in Lent some people often start to slip in keeping their Lenten penances, while others haven’t yet begun their penances at all. Passiontide reminds us to refocus or deepen our attention on the season and its purposes of repentance of sin, conversion of heart, and appreciation of Christ’s love manifested in His Passion and Cross. If you’ve been slacking in your observance of Lent, buck up. If you’ve neglected the season entirely, it’s not too late. Let us beg our Crucified Lord to shower us with His grace in these last two weeks of Lent, and that we may be open to His grace and love Him in return. During Lent, our focus on our sins and God’s redeeming suffering and death for our sins are called to mind by the many outward signs of Lent. The bodily/physical reminders of these days are so important to our experiencing the meaning of the season—Jesus suffered and died for us in His human body. And so it is important to experience the mysteries of this season “in the flesh.” In our daily lives this is seen in our penances, including fasting and abstaining from meat. In the Mass we see it in the suppression of the Alleluia every day, and the Gloria on Sundays, as these joyful prayers are set aside during the sober and somber season. In Passiontide the elevated intensity of our focus is expressed in the outward and dramatic sign of covering the statues and crucifixes in our churches. In part, this is to encourage us to sort of place ourselves 2000 years back in time with Jesus during those last two weeks before His Crucifixion and Resurrection: Good Friday has not yet happened, so there is no cross yet; Easter has not happened, so no saints are in heaven. Keep this in mind in the coming days: “I’m walking with Jesus, and Peter and John and the apostles…With Judas. With Mary Magdalene and Salome and the other holy women. Walking toward Jerusalem, stopping in Bethany, going to the temple…. In the Upper Room, at the Last Supper…In the house of Caiaphas…In the palace of Pilate… Standing with Blessed Mary as they scourge her sweet child….” This focus “in the flesh” can be experience especially in our liturgical and prayer practices. So, please, come to the church and physically take part in the various sacraments, liturgies and other pious activities of the Church and parish in the next few weeks. I strongly encourage all of you to take advantage of the extra and longer confession times (we’ll have at least 2 priests hearing at most times, and sometimes 3 or 4). I also encourage you to go to one or more weekday Masses and spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, especially during Exposition on Wednesday and Friday. Please participate in praying the Stations of the Cross, especially in the church this Friday evening at 6:30 pm, or Good Friday at 7:00 pm, with other parishioners led by a priest. I also strongly encourage you to participate in next Sunday’s (Palm/Passion Sunday, March 25) Solemn Procession with Palms at the beginning of the 10:30 Mass (NOTE: IN PRIOR YEARS THIS WAS AT 8:45). Those who would like to join in the procession should gather inside the Parish Hall before 10:30, and then, after some prayers and a Gospel reading, process outside, and enter the church from the front, taking their pews as normal. All this should take about 10 minutes. We will be reserving pews for those who join in
the procession, if they call (703-440-0535) or email (straychrch@aol.com) the office during the week (you need not call to join the procession). If you attend the 10:30 Mass, you may also simply take your seats in the church before Mass as usual and listen over the speakers in the church to everything said/sung in the Parish Hall. Note, pray for nice weather, but if it’s rainy, snowy or too cold, we may alter either the route or starting point of the procession (staying inside)—we’ll let you know on Palm Sunday.
Holy Week. Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord is, of course, the beginning of Holy Week. Next Sunday we will include a schedule for Holy Week, but I ask you now to plan ahead today. These are the most solemn and sacred days of the Christian year, marked by special and unique liturgies, including Holy Thursday’s evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper with the solemn procession and silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight— “Can you not watch one hour with Me?” Then there’s Good Friday’s Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, with the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion, which begins at 3:00 pm—the hour of the Lord’s death. And finally, the Easter Vigil at the end of Holy Saturday evening. As your spiritual father I beg you to try to participate in all of these liturgies that are so important to experiencing the fullness of Catholic prayer in Holy Week. I especially recommend that you attend the 3:00 pm Good Friday service, with the Veneration of the Cross. Over the last few years I have been amazed and moved to see standing-room-only crowds. I know parking is a little difficult, and the 1-hour and 45-minute service is a long one, but I am always overwhelmed, edified and inspired as I see my good people humbly and happily accept these relatively minor inconveniences as a small sharing in the suffering of Jesus, as they wait patiently, many in tears, to venerate His Cross and to receive His Most Holy Body in Communion. It is a powerful liturgy—stark, dramatic, somber, mournful, and transformative. Some say, “but it’s a work day!” But I say: “it’s the hour of the Lord’s death! The most sacred hour in all time! Why would any Catholic want to be at work?”
Lenten Series. My last of five talks on “The Mass and the Eucharist” is this Thursday at 7:00 pm in the Parish Hall. This week I will be reviewing and giving a meditation on Eucharistic Prayer I, also called the Roman Canon. You hear this prayer most Sundays (and every Mass I celebrate), but have you ever really explored the poetry, symbolism and profound mysteries it is trying to express? Some think, “that prayer is so looonnngggg!” But if you have to listen to it anyway, why not figure out why so many of your favorite saints thought, “that prayer is so beautiful!” I am certain that by understanding this prayer a little better you’ll “get” a whole lot more out of every Mass you attend. If you weren’t able to attend the first 4 weeks, that’s okay—come to this last one: it can stand alone. If you ever feel like you’re not getting enough out of Mass, come to this talk! All are invited! Babysitting is available, but please call the office for reservations. (If you would like to catch up on prior weeks, you can view videos of those talks on our website.)
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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