Paschaltide 2008: April 2008 Archives

I Will Pray My Father

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Sixth Sunday of Pascha, Year A

Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3: 15-18
John 14:15-21

At First Vespers

The Magnificat Antiphon at First Vespers of Sunday is our first contact with the Sunday Gospel, the first taste of the Gospel that we will proclaim and hear, and repeat in various ways, praying it, and holding it in our hearts. The Magnificat Antiphon at First Vespers is the key to our Sunday lectio divina. It is a threshold text and, as such, it opens onto the Mystery. It invites into “the banqueting house” (Ct 2:4) so as to be able to say, Sunday after Sunday, with the bride of the Canticle, “With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (Ct 2:3).

Another Paraclete

The Magnificat Antiphon is our introduction to Mass on Sunday. “I will pray my Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, alleluia” (Jn 14:16). Even more, the Magnificat Antiphon at First Vespers introduces us into these last two weeks of Paschaltide: days of joy brought to fulfillment, days marked by the glory of the ascending Christ, and by persevering prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Magnificat Antiphon gives us the mystical core of the Sunday Gospel: Christ’s prayer to the Father and the promise of the Consoler, the Defender sent to our side to “help us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26). The text of the antiphon encloses and reveals the adorable mystery of the Trinity: the Son in prayer to the Father, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

O King of Glory

As this week progresses through the Ascension of the Lord toward Pentecost, yearning for the promise of the Holy Spirit will become all-pervasive in the liturgy. We will intensify our prayer for “the Counselor” (Jn 14:16), “the Spirit of Truth” (Jn 14:17 and dispose ourselves to receive his seven gifts. Already, we are growing into the great cry that will well up from the heart of the Church on the evening of the Ascension: “O King of glory, leave us not orphans; but send upon us the promise of the Father, the Spirit of Truth, alleluia” (Magnificat Antiphon, Second Vespers of the Ascension).

The Simplicity of His One Prayer

The gift of God is proportioned to our desire. Desire grows with prayer, and prayer with desire. I speak not of our desire and prayer but of Christ’s desire and prayer in us. This is what the liturgy communicates to us: the one desire of the Heart of Christ and the one prayer of His Heart to the Father. Growth in holiness has to do with yielding the multiplicity of our desires to His one desire, and the abandonment of the complexity of our prayers to the simplicity of His one prayer. “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:20).

Paenitentiam Ad Vitam

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The Benedictine abbot in the photo, an Irishman, is Blessed Columba Marmion (1858-1923). Upon the recommendation of a Trappist Father, I started reading Abbot Marmion when I was fifteen years old. Pope John Paul II beatified Dom Marmion on September 3, 2000.

Monday of the Fourth Week of Paschaltide

Acts 11:1-18
John 10:11-18

Life-Giving Repentance

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles recounts Saint Peter’s illumination concerning the integration of Gentiles into the Christian community. It takes place in the city of Joppa while Peter is at his noonday prayers on the roof of the house where he was lodging. This is one of the events commemorated each day at the Hour of Sext, the Church’s Sixth Hour Prayer, corresponding to midday. The point of the reading is, I think, in the last sentence: “It seems God has granted life-giving repentance of heart to the Gentiles too” (Ac 11:18).

Penitence Unto Life

Life-giving repentance — what the Latin text beautifully calls paenitentiam ad vitam, penitence unto life — is a gift of God, an effect of divine grace. Repentance begins when the heart is touched by the Word of God, or by the Finger of God’s Right Hand, the Holy Ghost. We come again to the central notion of compunction. Blessed Abbot Marmion, in his classic Christ the Ideal of the Monk, devotes all of chapter seven to compunction of heart. He treats of it masterfully under six headings, drawing abundantly from Sacred Scripture, the Liturgy, and the experience of the Saints.


Refresher Course

I don’t know when you last picked up Christ the Ideal of the Monk. I just know that there is no book quite like it. It is the work of a saint. And the chapter on compunction of heart is, to my mind, the spiritual core of the book. Treat yourself to a refresher course in Benedictine Life. Go back to the novitiate, at least spiritually. The book hasn’t changed, but you have.

Blessed Abbot Marmion asks: "Where will we obtain the spirit of compunction? How do we acquire so great a good? First of all, by asking it of God. This 'gift of tears' is so precious, it is so lofty a grace, that we will obtain it by imploring it of 'the Father of lights from whom descends upon us every perfect gift.'"

Verba vitae aeternae habes

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Third Saturday of Paschaltide

Acts 9:31-42
John 6:60-69

Paschaltide With Mary

There is a particular grace attached to the celebration of these Saturdays of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Paschaltide. Nobody experienced the joy of the Resurrection as did the Mother of Jesus, just as nobody experienced His bitter Passion as she did. This is why the surest way to enter deeply into the Paschal Mystery is in the company of Mary or, if you will, through her Immaculate Heart.

Hearts Made for Each Other

The Immaculate Conception has a unique and unequaled sensitivity to the joys of the God-Man, her Son, just as she has a unique and unequaled sensitivity to the sorrows of His Sacred Heart. The most pure Heart of Mary is perfectly attuned to the Heart of Jesus. Nothing of what belongs to His experience is foreign to her. And nothing of what belongs to her experience is foreign to Him. Her Heart was made for His, and His Heart was formed for hers by the Holy Spirit in her womb.

Receiving From Her Hands

As Mediatrix of All Graces, Mary dispenses the gift of a share in her compassion to those of her children who are open to receiving it. Similarly, she dispenses the gift of a share in her joy at the Resurrection of her Son to those who are open to receiving it. Our Lady stands above us with open hands, just as she is depicted at the rue du Bac. Streams of grace flow from her hands. Some of these are bright; they signify the graces that souls welcome and receive with desire and gratitude. Others are dark; they signify the graces that she is ready to give, but that no one welcomes. One of the lessons that emerges from the apparitions to Saint Catherine Labouré at the rue du Bac is that a soul does well to say to the Blessed Virgin, “Give me, beloved Mother, the graces that no one else wants; the gifts that no one else claims; the blessings to which no heart is open.”

Immolated on the Altar

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Third Friday of Paschaltide
Memorial of Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr

Acts 9:1-20
John 6:52-59

Saint Stanislaus

We celebrate today the feast of Saint Stanislaus, patron of Poland. Like the young Karol Wojtyla, his successor as Bishop of Krakow, Stanislaus wished to embrace monastic life. Divine Providence, however, disposed otherwise. Stanislaus was appointed a canon of the cathedral of Krakow, and later, in 1071, named bishop of the same see by Duke Boleslaus. It was Boleslaus, become King of Poland, who with his own hand murdered Bishop Stanislaus on May 8, 1079, as he was celebrating Holy Mass.

Stanislaus had publicly reproved Boleslaus for his evil life and, as a last resort, excommunicated him. Boleslaus, instead of humbling himself and repenting of his sins, became enraged. One of the surest signs of the capital sin of pride is the inability to accept correction. Pride gives birth to rage. Rage either simmers below the surface, poisoning the soul, or expresses itself in violence. Had Boleslaus imitated the repentance of King David, he might have become a saint. Instead, he grew hard in his pride, and to his other sins added murder.

Saint Gemma

Today is also the dies natalis of Saint Gemma Galgani. When she was twenty years old, Gemma developed meningitis. Mystically befriended by the young Passionist Saint Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows, Gemma was miraculously cured through his intercession. Sufferings, both physical and emotional, refined Gemma’s soul until her configuration to Jesus Crucified was confirmed by the wounds she bore in her flesh. Gemma died at the age of twenty-five on April 11, 1903. She was beatified in 1933, and canonized in 1940. Like Saint Gabriel, her spiritual brother, Saint Gemma is a powerful intercessor for young people. In Rome, I would sometimes go to pray at the altar dedicated to her in the Basilica of Saints John and Paul.

The Altar

What did the tenth century Saint Stanislaus and the twentieth century Saint Gemma have in common? They ate the Flesh of the Son of Man and drank His Blood. They anticipated the life of heaven by living on earth a life of Eucharistic grace. Saint Stanislaus died at the altar, perfectly identified with Jesus, Victim and Priest. Saint Gemma, worn out by sufferings, died on the altar of her bed, identified in her own way with Jesus, Victim and Priest.

Ego sum panis vitae

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Third Wednesday of Paschaltide

Acts 8:1-8
John 6:35-40


The adorable mystery of the Eucharist illumines all of Paschaltide because, for the Christian, it illumines all of life. Paschaltide might just as well be called Eucharist-tide! The Eucharist is the sacrament of Our Risen Lord’s abiding presence, and the sacrifice of His Passion and Death renewed on the altar in an unbloody manner for the sake of the living and the dead.

Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that for the sick, the Eucharist is an encounter with the Physician of Life; for the unclean, it is the fountain of mercy; for the blind, it is the light of eternal brightness; for the poor and needy, it is the open treasury of the Lord of heaven and earth.

Christus Passus

Our Lord is, in the Most Holy Eucharist, just as He is in the glory of heaven. He stands before His Father, offering Himself as Victim and Priest. He displays His glorious wounds to the Father, and allows them to speak for themselves on our behalf. How well I remember sitting in a classroom thirty years ago, listening to the saintly Dominican Father Urban Mullaney passionately expound the Eucharist as the sacrament of the Christus Passus: Christ in the very act of His passing-over to the Father by suffering, dying, rising, and ascending to His right hand. In the Eucharist there is no remote “there and then.” The mystery perpetually unfolds before the Father, and before the Church, in the “now” of eternity.

Every Year a Year of the Eucharist

Paschaltide is the Church’s spatium laetissimum, her space of exceeding great joy. We read the Acts of the Apostles in order to discover there the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and among us. And we read the sixth chapter of Saint John in order to receive from it the grace of a Eucharistic renewal affecting all of life. For one who enters deeply into the Church’s Year of Grace, living Paschaltide as the Church intends it to be lived, every year is a Year of the Eucharist.

The Bread of Life

Today’s Gospel gives us but five verses, but they are enough to sustain a lifetime. “It is I who am the bread of life; he who comes to me will never be hungry, he who has faith in me will never thirst” (Jn 6:35). Take these words of Our Lord. Make them your own. Turn them around and address them to Him. “Thou, O Lord, art the bread of life. Thou art the bread of my life, my daily bread, the sustenance without which I will grow weak, and falter, and perish on the way. I come to Thee, that I may never be hungry. Give me faith in Thee, that I may never thirst.

Tamquam faciem angeli

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Third Monday of Pascha

Acts 6:8–15
John 6:22–29

Like the Face of an Angel

Saint Luke describes Saint Stephen as having a face like that of an angel. “And all those who sat there in the Council fastened their eyes on him, and saw his face looking like the face of an angel” (Ac 6:25). Those who have glimpsed the faces of angels tell us that they shine with an unearthly radiance and that they are beautiful beyond any mortal beauty.

They Behold the Face of my Father

The brightness of the angels is, like that of the moon, a reflected brightness. They are living spiritual mirrors of the uncreated beauty of God. Our Lord says in Matthew 18:10: “See to it that you do not treat one of these little ones with contempt; I tell you, they have angels of their own in heaven, that behold the face of my heavenly Father continually.” The angels participate in the brightness and beauty that they contemplate in the face of the Father, and in the glory of the Father that, Saint Paul tells us, “shines in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

Whoever Has Seen Me

The face of Saint Stephen was like that of an angel because Stephen, being “full of the Holy Spirit” (Ac 7:55) had the eyes of his soul fixed at all times on the adorable Face of Christ. When the Apostle Philip said to Our Lord, “Let us see the Father; that is all we ask,” Jesus answered him, saying, “What, Philip, here am I, who have been all this while in your company; hast thou not learned to recognize me yet? Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father” (Jn 14:8-9).

Mercy Has the First Word

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Misericordia Domini

It is curious (and praiseworthy!) that Lutherans have, for the most part, conserved the Catholic practice of referring to a given Sunday by the incipit, or first words, of the Introit of the Mass. I noticed this not along ago while perusing The Brotherhood Prayerbook edited by The Reverend Benjamin T. G. Mayes, an American Lutheran pastor. Catholics are still accustomed to hearing the Third Sunday of Advent referred to as Gaudete Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent as Laetare Sunday and, perhaps, the Second Sunday of Easter as Quasimodo Sunday, but the custom has largely disappeared.

A Triumphal Arch

The Introit of the Mass is, according to Father Maurice Zundel, like a triumphal arch through which we pass into the Holy Mysteries. Each Sunday has its own name derived from the Introit. Today, therefore, is Misericordia Domini Sunday. Mercy has the first word in today's Mass.

The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord, alleluia:
by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous:
praise is comely for the upright. (Ps 32:5-6)

The Wound of Mercy

The death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ has bathed the whole world in mercy. The Mass, being the sacramental renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross, remains for all time the wellspring of the inexhaustible torrent of mercy that ever flows from the wound opened by the soldier's lance in Jesus' Sacred Side.

The Lex Orandi

Catholic culture is shaped by the Sacred Liturgy: not only by the calendar of the Church, but also by the Proper of the Mass. I have long argued that the Proper of the Mass is a constitutive element of the Lex orandi — not just the text of the Proper, but also the melodic vesture of the Gregorian chant that clothes it and expresses its meaning.

Termites in the House

The option of selecting an alius cantus aptus (another suitable chant) has, in no small measure, contributed to the dismantling of the Roman Liturgy. The Proper of the Mass is not a decorative element, added onto the fundamental structure of the liturgy as a kind of embellishment; it is, rather, a supporting beam of the whole edifice. Move it, and the whole structure is weakened and, with time, will collapse. Is that not what we have seen over the past forty-five years? The alius cantus aptus has, in most places, replaced the Proper of the Mass, and liturgical termites have infested the whole structure.

Recover the Propers

To my mind, one of the most urgent tasks of The Reform of the Reform is the suppression of the provision for an alius cantus aptus, and the restoration of the traditional texts of the Proper of the Mass, taking care, at the same time, that the texts given in the Missale Romanum correspond to those in the Graduale Romanum. The replacement, in the Missale Romanum of 1970, of the venerable sung texts of the Graduale Romanum with texts destined to be read, was an innovation without precedent, and a mistake with far reaching and deleterious consequences for the Roman Rite.


In how many places will the Mass of Beata Maria in Resurrectione Domini be celebrated tomorrow? The proper texts of the Mass are found in the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine or in the English translation of it, entitled Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is the oration I composed to conclude the General Intercessions, and my own translation of the splendid Preface of this Mass. The painting of the Risen Jesus appearing to His Blessed Mother is by Giovanni Francesco Guercino (1599-1666).

Collect at the General Intercessions

Almighty and ever-living God,
who, during the great and silent sabbath
when your Son slept in the tomb,
looked upon the flame of faith and hope
that burned, for the sake of the whole Church,
in the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary,
grant us, we beseech you,
so to follow her in faith and in hope in this life
as to share her joy eternally in heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.


Truly it is right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

At the resurrection of your Christ
you filled the blessed Virgin with joy beyond all telling
and wonderfully extolled her faith.
In the strength of that faith
she waited for that Day of Light and of Life
when the night of death would be ended,
the whole world would exult,
and the Church at her dawn would tremble with joy
in seeing again her deathless Lord.

Through him the choirs of Angels adore your majesty,
as in eternity they rejoice before your face.
Let our voices, we pray you, be joined to theirs,
in this their joyful hymn:

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory