Fr. Daniel Gifford
NEW PATHS INTO THE MYSTERY
O Jesus, in union with Your Most Precious Blood poured out on the cross and offered in every Mass, I offer You today my prayers, works, joys, sorrows and sufferings for the praise of Your Holy Name and all the desires of Your Sacred Heart; in reparation for sin, for the conversion of sinners, the union of all Christians and our final union with You in Heaven. Amen. Last week, I wrote about the concept behind this prayer of spiritual offering. As we enter Holy Week, it is good that we fix our eyes upon the sacrifice of Christ in an even more focused manner. As we consider the 12th Station (front cover) we come to the culmination of the Self-Gift of Christ, which began with the Annunciation. He began then pouring Himself out for humanity, coming down to dwell among us, making Himself vulnerable to the very human reality of suffering and pain. That process of emptying Himself in this way is complete upon the cross, where He speaks the words: “It is finished.” The perfect act of love, the perfect offering to the Father who loved us first, has been made. Let us unite ourselves to this offering. Let us offer ourselves with Christ to the Father. As we move into Holy Week, let’s take this to a more practical level. I would like to offer some thoughts about how you can enter into Holy Week, even while remaining mostly in your homes. Let’s begin with...
Palm Sunday. Hopefully, you have seen the video announcing that Christ will be entering the City of Princeton, as He once entered the City of Jerusalem. I will be making a driving tour of Princeton this weekend, with Our Lord safely inside the car in a pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament. I will remain in my car and I ask you to remain in your yard, driveway or sidewalk. If weather does not permit you to be outside, you might sit at the door or window. I will drive as slowly as traffic conditions permit me to safely drive, with (hopefully, weather permitting) my windows down, playing Gregorian Chant. Attached is
a picture of my car, taken just before beginning a round of “Carfessionals,” so you know what it looks like. My schedule will be as follows. I will begin by driving a Southwest quadrant of the town (identified by all that is southwest of Main Street and Peru Street) at 6 PM on Saturday, followed by a Southeast quadrant (again, southeast of Main and Peru) at 7 PM on Saturday. I will set out again Sunday afternoon at 2:30 PM, to drive a Northwest quadrant (again, northwest of Main and Peru), and finally Northeast (of Main and Peru) at 3:30 PM on Sunday. Mass will be livestreamed on Saturday at 4 PM, as usual, after 2:30 PM Confessions in the parking lot. After livestreaming our new usual noon Masses daily on Monday through Wednesday, we will begin the Sacred Triduum on Thursday evening.
Things you might do during the week? You might clean the house. It might sound silly, but you could think of it as an equivalent of wearing your finest outfit for Easter Mass every year. If you will be entering into the Triduum and/or Easter Mass from your home, prepare your home for the occasion! While you’re at it, do you have a home shrine or altar? If not, it can be as simple as finding a spot in your house, even simply a corner, where you might put the “holiest” things you own (maybe a statue or picture of Christ or a saint, maybe a bible, maybe even just a rosary). If you have candles, consider placing some there. You might even light a candle or two when you go there to pray as an individual or a family. Under these circumstances, you might even include a temporary spot where you could place a computer or other screen, when you intend to view the Mass or devotional videos, whether from Saint Louis Parish, EWTN, Word on Fire, FORMED, Ascension Press, Project YM Live (for our teens) or so many other great Catholic resources. If so, I encourage you to make this space also conducive to more quiet prayer, without the glowing of any screens. Homes get hectic and crazy. Don’t set the bar unreasonably high but do the best you can. God is pleased when we simply give Him our best! As we enter into the week in which Christ finally gave us everything, let us strive to give Him our very best, without worrying about it not being something else.
Holy Thursday begins as a moment of celebration, as Christ gathers His Apostles to celebrate the Passover, inaugurates a new and final Passover in the Holy Eucharist, and ordains them as his priests. But then the tone becomes more somber, as that new Passover unfolds in His Paschal Mystery. They will soon understand the meaning of the words “This is My Body, which is given up for you” and “My Blood, which will be shed for you.” You might start the day with that spirit of joyfully celebrating an occasion. Families or roommates might make an extra point to share a special meal together, while those who don’t have the opportunity might pray a rosary or evening prayer with others on the phone or even a teleconference platform. I recently saw a wonderful suggestion that fathers might take this time to wash the feet of your wife and children or perform some other humbling gesture of selfless service for them. This would be a beautiful way to transition from your dinner together into “tuning in” for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Parents (as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, etc.), as we recall the birth of the priesthood, it is a fitting day to pray that your children listen for God’s call to whatever vocation He will call them into, while also praying for an overall increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. As we celebrate the birth of the Eucharist, you might view one of the Holy Hours which were livestreamed and recorded and remain in a playlist on our parish YouTube page. Finally, just as we would end by keeping watch with Our Lord in the garden, if you are able to end your night with a peaceful quiet in the house, strive to do so. Consider putting away all devices and turning off all screens, after Mass.
On Good Friday, strive to keep those screens off, perhaps making the viewing of the Service of Our Lord’s Passion and/ or the Stations of the Cross your one exception. Remembering it is a day of fasting and abstaining from meat, spend time reading the Passion from any of the four gospels, praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, praying the Stations of the Cross, and simply spending time in front of a crucifix as long as it takes to remember that He did that FOR YOU. Because He. Loves. You.
On Holy Saturday, notice what’s going on in the world. How does the world go on without Christ, after He has laid down His life on the cross? Do they understand His sacrifice? Do you? Do they have hope? Do you? Let the grief of His loss, the joy of the memories of the ways He has blessed you and the hope of the Resurrection stir within your soul. Spend time sitting around a fire (if possible) or a quiet place and engage in reflection, whether individual or holy discussion, about how God has reached you and drawn you into His mysteries in new ways this Holy Week. As well as families having these discussions, small groups, prayer groups, Bible Studies or even just good friends might make time for these sharing’s of graces over the phone or teleconference. He will draw you into His Paschal Mystery in new ways. Strive to make your heart and your home as available to Him as possible. Don’t worry if you can’t follow through on all these suggestions. Do what you can. The Lord is pleased, and He is the One leading you. You just have to follow. Follow Him along the way of the Way of the Cross, that you may follow Him when He comes forth from the tomb. God bless you and may we meet along the Way of the Cross this week.