The Church’s Year of Grace
The Church’s Year of Grace, a popular commentary on the liturgical year by Canon Regular of Saint Augustine Dom Pius Parsch, had a profound influence on my earliest discovery of the liturgy. I can still visualize exactly where it was on the shelves of the school library. Beginning in fourth grade, I think, I returned to it often, intrigued by the Beuronese line drawings and the wonderful explanations of Roman stational churches, antiphons, and all such things. It is a great pity that Liturgical Press (Collegeville, Minnesota) has not seen fit to republish The Church’s Year of Grace. The rising generation of young people eager to grow in the knowledge and love of the traditional liturgy would benefit immensely from a new edition of Parsch’s work.
Station at Saints Cosmas and Damian
I delighted in the commentary given by Pius Parsch for this Thursday of the Third Week of Lent. The stational church is the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the beneficent physician martyrs of the East. Parsch sums up the liturgy of the day: “Christ is the Physician, the house of God is the hospital, and the Church, the divinely instituted clinic for healing souls.”
Today’s Introit begins with the word salus, health. Our Lord Jesus Christ addresses us while we are yet on the threshold of the Holy Mysteries, saying: “I am the health of the people! In whatever affliction they appeal to Me, I will hear them.” The Divine Physician calls his people to health of soul and body.
The Gospel (Lk 4:38-44) relates an entire day of healing and deliverance from the powers of darkness, beginning with the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. At vespertide those afflicted with diseases of any kind are brought to Jesus. He lays hands upon each one and heals them. Many are freed from demonic possession. The devils come out of them confessing in loud cries that Jesus is the Son of God. He rebukes them, and they fall silent. The full mystery of His messianic identity is not yet to be disclosed.
The Church: A Spiritual Sanatorium
Dom Parsch invites us to look courageously into the Lord’s Face today and say: “Thou art my Physician. Cut away, cauterize, work Thy healing art on me . . . only make me well for everlasting life.” He presents the Church as a sanatorium for sin-sick souls. Why, then, are we astonished and scandalized by the weaknesses of our brothers?
Before leaving the world our Saviour established a clinic, the Church, whose main task was to heal sick souls. The Church is a great spiritual sanatorium. All the practices and ordinances of the Church have as their ultimate purpose to heal men and keep them healthy. Think of the sacraments: baptism, penance, extreme unction. Think in particular of the medicinal power of the Holy Eucharist. Yes, the twofold purpose of the Eucharist is to nourish and to heal. Nourishment to build divine life, medicine to overcome the diseases ravaging the soul!
To our great detriment we have practically forgotten the latter significance of the Eucharist. We keep believing that Communion is only for saints, a reward for virtue. The time of Mass is the heavenly Physician’s normal office hours. . . .
From today’s liturgy we will take with us into daily life this joyous conviction: we have a Healer who wishes to heal our infirmities; we have a clinic providing all the means needed to restore our health; we have a medicine which infallibly produces its effect if we use it as prescribed.