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Offline Binechi

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Palm Sunday
« on: April 09, 2017, 05:10:52 AM »
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  • And they brought the ass and the colt, and laid their garments upon them, and made him sit thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way: and others cut boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way: And the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.--Luke 21, 7 - 9

    by Leonard Goffine, 1871

    Why is this day called Palm-Sunday?

    On account of the palms with which the people strewed the Saviour's path before Him, as He entered Jerusalem; and because palms are on this day blessed before service, by the Church, which "are afterwards carried in solemn procession in commemoration of Christ's solemn entrance into Jerusalem.

    Why are palms blessed?

    That those who bear them with devotion, may receive protection for soul and body, as prayed for in the blessing; that the inhabitants of the place in which they are kept, may be preserved from all evils; that those who carry the palms, may, by means of the Church's prayers, adorn their souls with good works and thus, in spirit, meet the Saviour; that, through Christ whose members we are, we may conquer the kingdom of death and darkness, and be made worthy to share in His glorious resurrection and triumphant entrance into heaven. St. Augustine writes of the palms: "They are emblems of praise, and the signs of victory; because the Lord by death conquered death, and with the sign of victory, the cross, overcame the devil, the prince of death." Therefore we go singing hymns of praise, with the cross in advance, in procession around the Church; when we come to the Church door, we find it locked, and the priest knocks at it with the cross, to show, how by Adam's sin heaven was closed to us, and that only since Jesus has killed death, and only by the cross of reconciliation, are the Church doors and the gates of paradise open to men, who love the Lord.

    To infuse us with compassion for the suffering Redeemer, the Church, in the person of Christ, cries at the Introit in lamenting tones: Lord, keep not thy help far from me; look to my defence; save me from the lion's mouth, and rescue me in my distress, from the horns of unicorns. O God, my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? They are my sins (that is, the sins of all men which I have taken upon me), that keep salvation far from me. (Ps. xxi.)

    PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O almighty and eternal God, who wouldst have our Saviour become man, and suffer on a cross, to give mankind an example of humility: mercifully grant, that we may improve by the example of His patience, and partake of His resurrection. Through, &c.

    EPISTLE. (Phil. ii. 5 -11) Brethren: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery, to be equal with God: but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death; even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all namas: that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of the Father.

    INSTRUCTION. In this epistle, the apostle, as St. Chrysostom says, in a special manner urges us to humility by which we are made like to Christ, the Lord, who putting off the majesty of His divinity, became man, and obediently humbled Himself to the ignominious death of the cross. "Would that all might hear," exclaims St. Gregory, "that God resists the proud, and gives His grace to the humble! Would that all might hear: Thou dust and ashes, why dost thou exalt thyself? Would that all might hear the words of the Lord: Learn of me, because I am humble of heart. Because for this the only begotten Son of God assumed the form of our weakness, suffered mockery, insults, and torments, for this that the humble God might teach man not to be proud."

    ASPIRATION. Ah, that my sentiments were as Thine, O my Lord Jesus! who so humbledst Thyself and wast obedient to the most ignominious death of the cross. Grant me, I beseech Thee, O my Redeemer, the grace to diligently follow Thee in humility.

    In Mass instead of the gospel the Passion, as it is called, that is, the History of the Passion of our Lord, is read from Matthew chapters xxvi., xxvii., and xxviii.) And neither incense, nor lights are used, nor is the Dominus vobiscum said, thus signifying that Jesus, the Light of the world, was taken away by death, at which, as we know, the faith and devotion of the apostles shook and became almost extinct. When reading the History of the Passion, the priest, when he comes to the words: and bowing his head, he gave up the ghost, with all the congregation, falls on his knees to consider the great mystery of the death of Jesus, by which our redemption was effected, and to give God thanks for it from his inmost heart.

     At the blessing of the palms, the priest reads the following

    GOSPEL. (Matt. xxi. 1 - 9.) At That Time: Jesus drawing near to Jerusalem; and being come to Bethphage, at Mount Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, and said to them: Go ye into the village that is over against you, and immediately you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her: loose them and bring them to me: and if any man shall say any thing to you, say ye, that the Lord hath need of them: and forthwith he will let them go. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "Tell ye the daughter of Sion: Behold, thy king cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass and a colt the foal of her that is used to the yoke." And the disciples going, did as Jesus commanded them. And they brought the ass and the colt: and laid their garments upon them, and made him sit thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way: and others cut down boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way: and the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."'

    Why did Jesus enter Jerusalem so solemnly and yet so humble?

    To show that He was the promised Messiah and King of the Jews, as foretold by the Prophet Zacliarias (ix. 9.), and that He had come to conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil, for which He used the weapons of meekness, humility, and poverty, and therefore came seated not on a proud steed, but on an ass's weak colt, like a poor person, entering Jerusalem in all humility, thus teaching us that meekness and indifference to earthly goods, are our best weapons for victory over our enemies; to fill the type of the paschal lamb, for on this day the lambs who were to be sacrificed in the temple on the following Friday, were solemnly led into the city. Thus Jesus, like a meek lamb, entered the city of Jerusalem to be sacrificed for us.

    Why did the people meet Christ with palm-branches?

    This happened by the inspiration of God, to indicate that Christ, the conqueror of death, hell, and the devil, would reconcile man with God, and open the heavenly Jerusalem to him, for the palm is the emblem of victory and peace. By this we learn also the inconsistency and mutability of the world; for the very people who on this day met Christ with palm-branches shouting: "Hosanna to the Son of David," a few days after shouted: "Crucify him! Crucify him!" -- Learn from this to despise the world's praise, and not to imitate the inconsistency of this people by receiving at Easter your Saviour with joy in holy Communion, and soon crucify Him anew by sin. (Hebr. vi. 6.)

    How should we take part to-day in the procession of blessed palms?

    With the pious intention of meeting Christ in spirit, with the devout people of Jerusalem, adoring Him, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna to Him who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna to the Highest!" and with the heartfelt prayer to Jesus for His grace, that by it we may become blooming, and with Him conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil, and thus merit to be received into the heavenly Jerusalem.

    How and why did Christ defend Himself against the slanders of the Jews?

    PETITIONO Jesus, Thou always fresh and fruitful Tree of Life! grant, that we may by love be like palms ever green, and by the practice of good works blossom and bring forth fruit.


     Why is this week called Holy Week?

    This week is called Holy Week and also the Great Week, because during it Christ consummated the most holy mystery of our redemption, and gave us such unspeakable benefits. It is besides called the Quiet Week, because of the quietness of the Church services.

    What remarkable things did Christ do during the first four days of this week?

    After He had entered the temple at Jerusalem on Palm Sunday amidst the greatest rejoicings of the people, and was even saluted by the children with the joyous clamor of "Hosanna", He drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple, and when He had spent the entire day in preaching and healing the sick, He went in the evening to Bethania, where He remained over night in Lazarus' house, because in Jerusalem no one wished to receive Him for fear of His enemies. The three following days He spent in Jerusalem, teaching in the temple, and passing the night in prayer on Mount Olivet. In His sermons during these days, He especially strove to convince the Jewish priests, the lawyers and Pharisees, that He was really the Messiah, and that they would commit a terrible sin, bringing themselves and the whole Jewish nation to destruction by His death, which He foretold. This ruin of the people He illustrated to them most plainly by the withering of the fig-tree under His curse, and foretelling the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem. He disputed with them, and confounded them, openly and by parables, that out of anger and hatred, they with one mind decreed to kill Him. To the execution of their design the impious Judas aided the most, for from avarice he betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver (about fifteen dollars in our money) to the chief priests, and the next day, Thursday, became His betrayer and delivered Him over into their hands.

    Offline Binechi

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    Re: Palm Sunday
    « Reply #1 on: April 09, 2017, 05:32:28 AM »
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  • "Go ye into the village that is over against you: and immediately you shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them to me." (Matth. 21 : 2.)

    Palm Sunday: Confession
    by Bishop Ehrler, 1891

    Although man, through the gift of reason, is distinguished from the beasts, yet "he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them" (Ps. 48 : 13,) when refusing to listen to reason he commits sin. For, what can be more senseless than voluntarily to renounce that "freedom wherewith Christ hath made us free," (Gal. 4:31,) and to enter the service of Satan? The holy Fathers of the Church compare a man hardened with sin to the tethered ass mentioned in the present Gospel. But, for the consolation of the sinner, our Saviour says: "Loose it, and bring it to me." The bonds that bind a sinful soul can only be loosened by those to whom Christ said: "Whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven." (Matth. 16 : 19.) The priest will loose us from our sins; but we must, beforehand, make him:

    I. A true;
     II. A sincere; and
     III. An exact and particular Confession of our sins.

    This is what St. Bernard, in common with all the other Fathers of the Church, teaches us. We will take this opportunity of preparing you for your Easter Confession.

     I. The confession, must be true and not be made either through fear, or through hypocrisy.

     1. Confession without true contrition is useless and profitless, and true compunction of heart can not exist without the love of God. Servile fear, alone, is not sufficient to reunite us with God, from whom we have separated ourselves by sin. Many derive no benefit from confession, because they approach the holy tribunal without true contrition. "They tell their sins to the priest, as if they were telling a story for amusement." (St. Thos. of Villanova.) We should confess our sins with a supernatural sorrow, which causes us to love that which we have before hated, and to hate that which we have previously loved. "I will speak in the bitterness of my soul," says Job, (Job 10 : 1,); and thus should we speak in confession.

     2. St. Bernard says that there are some who go to confession only to gain the good opinion of others. These know beforehand that their confessions are worthless and invalid. They should remember that, although they may deceive the priest, they can not deceive God: and that, when they deceive the priest, they are trying to deceive God, in whose name and authority he hears the confession. How often, alas! might it not be said to one who returns from the confessional under such circumstances: Unhappy man! "Thou hast not lied to men, but to God!" (Acts s : 4.)

     II. The confession must be sincere, and we must not conceal either a sin or any important circumstance which changes the nature of a sin.

     1. What will it avail us to confess some of our sins, and remain silent about others? Can we be purified from a part, and still retain the stains of the remainder?" All things are naked, and open to the eyes of Him, to whom our speech is." (Hebr. 4: 13.) "Pour out thy heart like water before the face of the Lord," says Jeremias (Lament. 2 : 19.) St. Bonaventure, commenting on this passage, remarks, that Jeremias has not said: We should pour out our hearts like oil, or blood, or milk, or wine; because of these, something always remains behind, either of the fluid itself, or of the color, or taste; but "like water," since that, on the contrary, flows out of a vessel without leaving any trace behind it. In a like manner, should we confess our sins.

     2. Sometimes there are circumstances connected with the sin which quite alter its nature. For example, there is fornication, and adultery, and similar sins against holy purity, each one of which must be specified in confession. Thus the Catholic Church and the Council of Trent teach. There are other circumstances which greatly increase the guilt of a sin, thus, it is not the same degree of theft to steal one dollar, as to steal one thousand dollars. All these, and other attendant circumstances must be confessed by a sincere penitent. He who wishes to be perfectly cured, must make known to the physician, not only the sickness itself, but all the attendant symptoms characteristic of his malady.

     III. Finally, the confession must be an exact and particular declaration, not an excuse of our sins; and we must confess only our own sins; and not confess the sins of our neighbors.

     1. "One must use no expressions," says St. Bonaventure, "which are calculated to palliate, or diminish his sins; as those do who relate long histories before they come to the sin itself, and who are more disposed to excuse, than to accuse themselves." We have, in this case, much need to pray: "Incline not my heart to evil words; to make excuses in sins," (Ps. 14: 4), as the workers of iniquity do. "For what is more wicked," exclaims St. Augustine, "than for the sinner to deny that he is a sinner, even when he is convicted of the sin, and can no longer deny it? He will not acknowledge his guilt, and, because he excuses rather than accuses himself, he does not remember that instead of pardon, he deserves afresh punishment. Such excuses may pass with men, but not with God; as he cannot be deceived. Man must not excuse his sins, but candidly acknowledge them."

     2. There are also many, who, in the confessional, are more ready to speak of the sins of their neighbors, than to confess their own. Have you not read, says St. Bernard, that the just man is his own accuser? Take notice, that Holy Writ says: his own accuser, not that of some one else. Remember the words of St. James: "Confess, therefore, your sins one to another!" Observe that he says your sins, not another's. "I have acknowledged my sin to thee, and my injustice I have not concealed." (Ps. 31: 5.) My sin, my injustice, says the Psalmist, not that of another. We must confess our sins, not like Adam who laid the blame on Eve, nor like Eve who attributed her sin to the serpent, but we must accuse ourselves, and no other person. "I said I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord," against myself, says the Psalmist, and not against my neighbor.

    Dearly beloved Christians, if you are now resolved to make a true, sincere, and generous confession of your sins, then "Go, show yourselves to the priests." (Luke 17: 14.) They will absolve you, and lead you back to your Saviour. You may then say of Him: "Thou hast held me by my right hand: and by Thy will thou hast conducted me, and with Thy glory Thou hast received me." (Ps. 72: 24.)

    Palm Sunday: On Canonical Penances

    ''A very great multitude spread their garments in the way and others cut down boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way." (Matt. 21: 8.)

    Today, we behold our Saviour entering Jerusalem in royal splendor, greeted by the loud acclamations of the people. According to the custom of the Orientals, some spread their garments in the way, others cut down branches of trees and strewed them in his path; and the multitudes that preceded and followed Him, cried out: "Hosanna to the Son of David: blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

    In remembrance of this, the solemn entrance of Christ into Jerusalem--today, in our churches, palm-branches are blessed, distributed, and carried in procession. Herein, we behold one of the most imposing ceremonies of the whole ecclesiastical year. The palms are not blessed with simple and short prayers, but with benedictions of the first class, with many prayers and ceremonies closely resembling portions of the holy Mass. There is an Introit, for instance, an Epistle, Gradual, and Gospel; as also a Preface and Sanctus, all of which precede the blessing of the palms. Then follow some beautiful ceremonies. Bearing the blessed palms, the solemn procession proceeds to the church-door, which is closed; one part of the choristers remain with the priest outside of the church, while the others station themselves within. Thus stationed, they sing alternate verses of a hymn of praise and adoration to Christ their King and Redeemer. Thereafter, the deacon knocks at the church-door with the foot of the processional cross, the door opens and the holy Mass begins,--in which, for the first time, the Passion of our Lord is read.

    The processional ceremonies are very ancient, and typify a beautiful thought, namely, that through the holy Cross of our Redeemer the prayers and desires of the world were heard and granted, and the gates of heaven (closed by sin) were again opened. The cross is, as you know, dear brethren, the emblem of penance, and since I have often spoken to you during the course of the Lenten season, urging you to cultivate that humble contrition of heart suitable to the spirit of this day, on this, the last Sunday before Easter, I will close my exhortations by pointing out to you:

    The penitential discipline practised in the Catholic Church during the primitive ages; and the manner and cause of the alteration of such discipline in later times.

     I. Although the essence of Christian penance for the remission of sins has been the same in every century, still the external form of penance was, from the first century until far into the middle ages, so different from the practice of our own times, that we cannot look back upon those ages of fervor without sentiments of shame and consternation.

     1. Proceeding in spirit to one of the early Christian churches, we behold certain men and women, standing or kneeling, at all seasons of the year, outside of the sacred portals. They appear in sackcloth and ashes, with pallid faces and dishevelled hair. Sighing and weeping, they implore the passers-by to intercede for them with the head of the church, so that they may be permitted once more to enter the sacred precincts.

    Passing on to the interior of the church, we see near the door, or in some other place set apart for them, other rows of men and women. They lie prostrate upon the ground, or they stand in their places; and pain and sorrow are depicted upon their faces and speak from their eyes. When the sermon is over, we see them cast themselves upon their knees, and beat their breasts. The bishop with all his attendants comes down from the sanctuary, and prays over them; he addresses a few words to them, and they arise and leave the church. They are not permitted to assist at holy Mass.

     "Who are these men and women?" you ask me. They are the ancient penitents, who having fallen into grievous sins, must do penance for them according to the rules of the Church, before they can again be admitted to the communion of the faithful and the reception of the holy Sacraments.

     2. According to the express teachings of Holy Writ, every sin draws after it its peculiar punishment; and even though the sin be blotted out and forgiven in the holy Sacrament of Penance, the punishment due to it is not always remitted by the priest's absolution, but according to the character and number of one's sins, must be borne and suffered. This thought, upon which rests all Christianity, or the atonement of Christ for the sins of the world, was a living one in the hearts of the first Christians, and it called forth the penitential discipline of that age. A remission of sins without a previous corresponding penance and punishment for them, was either not known at all in those days, or known only as an exception. There must be a proportion between the penance and the sin,--" The penance should not be lighter than the sin itself." (St. Cyprian.)

    Only for very secret sins was absolution given in the early ages before the corresponding satisfaction for them had been performed; in like manner, to the sick and dying was granted absolution immediately after the confession of their sins. But even for such sins which were revealed in auricular confession, the corresponding penance was not left to the free will of the sinner, but was appointed by the Church. Gladly and willingly, the first Christians accepted such canonical penances, in order to be reconciled to God, to make satisfaction for their sins, and, (free from their guilt and punishment), to be once more restored to the fellowship of the faithful. It seemed better to them to perform the severest penances, prescribed by the Church, than, without repentance, to be cast away from the presence of their God.

     3. The greater and more grievous the sin, the heavier was the penance for it. The ancient Fathers and Doctors of the Church divided sins into three classes:

    a. Those grave crimes by which great public scandal was given;
     b. Those which, although very grievous, were committed more privately; and
     c. Light and trifling offenses, commonly called venial sins.

    In the first centuries, the manner of penitential discipline, as well as its duration, were not fixed by law. This was left in each church to the wisdom and judgment of the bishop or his representative. In the case of the incestuous Corinthian who was excluded from the Church by St. Paul, but who, after a short penance was again restored to membership, we see that the fervor of the penitent's zeal and contrition was the gauge by which the pastors of the different churches applied the law of canonical penance. But, by degrees, the whole system of penance was regulated by corresponding ecclesiastical law. Grievous sins and crimes demanding public ecclesiastical penance, were rare in the first two centuries of Christianity; hence, it was scarcely necessary then to lay down general laws on that head. St. Cyprian is the first of the Fathers of the Church who speaks of certain common ordinances respecting the punishment of the penitent and the length of its continuance. But these regard only the sin of apostasy from the faith, and were merely a hint to the African bishops to receive again into the communion of the faithful those who had actually apostatized.

    In the second half of the third century, however, men became more corrupt. There raged in those days not only continued persecutions, but also great civil revolutions; and the wars of the Persians, Goths, and other barbarous nations, devastated the Church, which was still languishing under the stroke of the tyrant. The schisms of Novatian and of Paul of Samosata, assailed her from within. The moral condition of the faithful grew worse, and the number of sinners daily increased more and more. The penitential canons which formerly dealt only with apostates, had to extend their limits. The multitude and variety of the scandals of those times made it necessary to adapt the Penances to the number and quality of the sins confessed. It behooved the Church to pass laws regulating her penitential discipline for the whole of Christendom, so that a uniform treatment of penitents might be observed, and limits set to the torrent of destruction which was inundating the world.

    There were four grades through which the sinner, according to the number and grievousness of his sins, had to pass, before he could be again restored to the communion of the faithful, allowed to assist at the sacrifice of the Mass, and receive Communion. These were

    a. The Weepers, who stood just outside the church-door, and with tears implored those who entered to intercede for them with the ecclesiastical superiors;

     b. The Hearers, who stood in the vestibule, inside the first door of the church;

     c. The Prostrates, who knelt among the Catechumens inside the church; and

     d. The Standers, who stood erect in the midst of the assembled faithful.

     a. The Weepers, according to St. Gregory, stood outside of the door of the vestibule of the church, and were not permitted to enter it, even for their protection in rough and stormy weather. Teqtullian says expressly, when speaking of sins of impurity, which were included in the first class: "We do not remove such sinners merely from the churchdoors, but from every covered building appertaining to the church, because they are not vicious sinners, but monsters of iniquity."

     b. After the penitent had passed the appointed time in the first grade, he was admitted to the second, among the Hearers. He was permitted then to lay aside the garb of the penitent, unless he voluntarily desired to wear it. The place in which these penitents stood, was the inner court of the church. They were called Hearers, because they were allowed to remain during the instruction, the reading of the holy Scriptures, and the sermon. After that, like the Catechumens, they were obliged to withdraw.

     c. The third grade of penitents was that of the Prostrates. These were permitted to enter the door of the church, but had to remain in the lowest place. Fasting and mortification of the body, zealous, fervent prayer, and night-watches were prescribed for them. Certain priests were appointed to watch over their conduct, and their manner of fulfilling these penitential works. When the sermon was over, they approached the bishop and the clergy, and prostrating themselves at the entrance to the sanctuary, confessed their sins. Having received the imposition of hands and the blessing of the bishop, they were dismissed with encouraging exhortations to perseverance in penance. They were, however, permitted to be present at Mass.

     d. After passing through this grade, they were admitted to the fourth class or the Standers. Therein, they laid aside all public tokens of grief and penance. They had their place behind the faithful, and were permitted to hear Mass, to join with the congregation in hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and to take part in the prayers of the Church, but, as yet, they were excluded from the reception of holy Communion. When the penitent had completed his appointed time in this grade of penance, he was absolved from sin and its punishment, and re-admitted to the holy Communion.

     II. In the course of time, the canonical discipline of the Church was gradually altered. Already at the end of the fourth century, a change was introduced into the Eastern churches. Private penances superseded the earlier public ones. It was left to the zeal of individual penitents to perform the penitential works imposed upon them by the priests in satisfaction of their sins. Still the penitential exercises of those days continued very severe, and they bear no proportion to those of the present time. We find in the Eastern churches, many centuries later, the traces of the ancient penitential discipline. The primitive canonical penances continued longer in the Roman Church. In her, the four grades of penitents existed until the eighth century; and even if milder observances, in the course of time, prevailed, yet the old penitential ordinances and grades were not changed. From the eighth century, the ancient severity of penance disappeared; and private penances took the place of public ones.

    From that period, the penitential ordinances assumed a new form, according to the character of the times. The moral standard of the faithful was gradually lowered. The migration of tribes which had overturned all existing order in most European countries; and the wandering to and fro of nations without home or country, had brought with it a frightful corruption of morals. The Church sought to interpose her authority, and she held the nations, by threats of great punishments, to Christian order and morality. From the beginning of the seventh century, confession was entirely separated from the penitential ordinance. The Church instructed her priests to impose upon sinners, in confession, private penances.

    The ancient grades of penance, in general, still remained in force at that time; but they assumed an altered form corresponding to the character of the period. The third grade, the class of Prostrates, which was so important in primitive times, entirely disappeared, and there remained only the other three grades of the so-called Weepers, Hearers and Standers. But aside from these penitential ordinances, grievous sins, at that time, were punished by the refusal of the holy Sacraments, and by the most rigorous fasts.

    About the eleventh century, a substitute for the ancient ecclesiastical discipline came in vogue. Its means of reparation were not selected with a view of lightening the burden of ordinary practices of penance, but of aggravating them, and they were besides very varied in their character. One could satisfy the ecclesiastical penance by a rigorous fast; another, by scourging himself with a discipline. He who voluntarily inflicted on his flesh a certain number of blows could ransom himself from the canonical penances. In the thirteenth century, these Flagellants, as the latter were called, marched through cities and villages in great multitudes, and, singing the Penitential Psalms, scourged themselves with cords and sharp thorns unto blood. The Church was compelled to pronounce against these exhibitions of penance, inasmuch as the Flagellants declared such bloody practices to be necessary for the forgiveness of sin, and commanded by God.

    Pilgrimages also took the place of ecclesiastical penance. The pilgrims wore iron bands around their bodies, on their necks, and on both arms, and were then sent forth to journey through the wide world. It was especially to great shrines, and to the holy See at Rome, that penitents travelled in order to receive the remission of their punishment. The penitential discipline of the epoch degenerated almost into inhumanity, and Church History relates punishments voluntarily inflicted on themselves by the penitents of those times, before which our softliving Christians of the nineteenth century cannot but shudder. The easiest substitute for penance at that time was the embracing of the religious state. Entrance into a Religious Order was then esteemed a second baptism; and all sins and crimes were believed to be atoned for thereby.

    Later still, came the Crusades. He who through devotion and for the purpose of wresting the Holy Land from the hands of the infidels, became a Crusader, received as his reward the remission of all ecclesiastical punishments. Prayer and almsdeeds were, also, regarded then as substitutes for the canonical penances. Thence it came to pass that the ancient canonical penances of the Church were almost wholly abolished ; and from the twelfth century, they really ceased. Thenceforward, the priest imposed a penance in the confessional, and left it to the zeal and piety of each of the faithful, through voluntary penitential works, to make atonement for his or her sins. In her love and compassion for the weakness of her children, the Church, from that time forward, granted frequent and rich Indulgences in order to supply, through the merits of Jesus Christ, what is wanting to human tepidity and imperfection.

    Two thoughts must impress themselves upon our minds when we consider the penitential canons in the different centuries. First, we must acknowledge that the essence of the holy Sacrament of Penance remained the same in all centuries, although the penance for sin varied. Confession, the avowal of sins, and their sacramental absolution, were the same in every century. Only the satisfaction for sin changed according to the character of the times. Nevertheless, it is with profound sorrow that we contemplate the change in penitential discipline; and the gradual decline of the ancient canonical observances. Looking back upon the first centuries of Christianity up to the Middle Ages, behold how grievously we have fallen from our first zeal for penance. Will the few prayers and good works which we perform after confession, suffice to satisfy the justice of God for sins which formerly could only be atoned for by such rigorous and austere penances? Must we not arouse ourselves today, to a greater zeal and fervor, striving to make satisfaction here on earth lest we be punished more severely in eternity! A contrite and humbled heart, which atones for sin by voluntary penitential works, the Lord will not despise; and that which we cannot accomplish through our own strength we may supply by the frequent gaining of Indulgences, by which the remission of the punishment due to our sins is granted to us. Amen.

    Offline Binechi

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    Re: Palm Sunday
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  • And the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.--St. Matt 21: 9

    (by Fr. Prosper Gueranger 1870)

    Today, if ye shall hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

    Early in the morning of this day, Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, leaving Mary His Mother, and the two sisters Martha and Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, at Bethania. The Mother of sorrows trembles at seeing her Son thus expose Himself to danger, for His enemies are bent upon His destruction; but it is not death, it is triumph, that Jesus is to receive today in Jerusalem. The Messias, before being nailed to the cross, is to be proclaimed King by the people of the great city; the little children are to make her streets echo with their Hosannas to the Son of David; and this in presence of the soldiers of Rome's emperor, and of the high priests and pharisees: the first standing under the banner of their eagles; the second, dumb with rage.

    The prophet Zachary had foretold this triumph which the Son of Man was to receive a few days before His Passion, and which had been prepared for Him from all eternity. 'Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion! Shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King will come to thee; the Just and the Saviour. He is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.' [Zach. ix. 9]. Jesus, knowing that the hour has come for the fulfilment of this prophecy, singles out two from the rest of His disciples, and bids them lead to Him an ass and her colt, which they would find not far off. He has reached Bethphage, on Mount Olivet. The two disciples lose no time in executing the order given them by their divine Master; and the ass and the colt are soon brought to the place where He stands.

    The holy fathers have explained to us the mystery of these two animals. The ass represents the Jewish people, which had been long under the yoke of the Law; the colt, upon which, as the evangelist says, no man yet hath sat [St. Mark xi. 2], is a figure of the Gentile world, which no one had ever yet brought into subjection. The future of these two peoples is to be decided a few days hence: the Jews will be rejected, for having refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias; the Gentiles will take their place, to be adopted as God's people, and become docile and faithful.

    The disciples spread their garments upon the colt; and our Saviour, that the prophetic figure might be fulfilled, sits upon him [Ibid. 7, and St. Luke xix. 35.], and advances towards Jerusalem. As soon as it is known that Jesus is near the city, the holy Spirit works in the hearts of those Jews, who have come from all parts to celebrate the feast of the Passover. They go out to meet our Lord, holding palm branches in their hands, and loudly proclaiming Him to be King [St. Luke xix. 38]. They that have accompanied Jesus from Bethania, join the enthusiastic crowd. Whilst some spread their garments on the way, others cut down boughs from the palm-trees, and strew them along the road. Hosanna is the triumphant cry, proclaiming to the whole city that Jesus, the Son of David, has made His entrance as her King.

    Thus did God, in His power over men's hearts, procure a triumph for His Son, and in the very city which, a few days later, was to clamour for His Blood. This day was one of glory to our Jesus, and the holy Church would have us renew, each year, the memory of this triumph of the Man-God. Shortly after the birth of our Emmanuel, we saw the Magi coming from the extreme east, and looking in Jerusalem for the King of the Jews, to whom they intended offering their gifts and their adorations: but it is Jerusalem herself that now goes forth to meet this King. Each of these events is an acknowledgment of the kingship of Jesus; the first, from the Gentiles; the second, from the Jews. Both were to pay Him this regal homage, before He suffered His Passion. The inscription to be put upon the cross, by Pilate's order, will express the kingly character of the Crucified: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate, the Roman governor, the pagan, the base coward, has been unwittingly the fulfiller of a prophecy; and when the enemies of Jesus insist on the inscription being altered, Pilate will not deign to give them any answer but this: 'What I have written, I have written.' Today, it is the Jews themselves that proclaim Jesus to be their King: they will soon be dispersed, in punishment for their revolt against the Son of David; but Jesus is King, and will be so for ever. Thus were literally verified the words spoken by the Archangel to Mary, when he announced to her the glories of the Child that was to be born of her: 'The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David, His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.' [St. Luke i. 32]. Jesus begins His reign upon the earth this very day; and though the first Israel is soon to disclaim His rule, a new Israel, formed from the faithful few of the old, shall rise up in every nation of the earth, and become the kingdom of Christ, a kingdom such as no mere earthly monarch ever coveted in his wildest fancies of ambition.

    This is the glorious mystery which ushers in the great week, the week of dolours. Holy Church would have us give this momentary consolation to our heart, and hail our Jesus as our King. She has so arranged the service of today, that it should express both joy and sorrow; joy, by uniting herself with the loyal hosannas of the city of David; and sorrow, by compassionating the Passion of her divine Spouse. The whole function is divided into three parts, which we will now proceed to explain.

    The first is the blessing of the palms; and we may have an idea of its importance from the solemnity used by the Church in this sacred rite. One would suppose that the holy Sacrifice has begun, and is going to be offered up in honour of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, even a Preface, are said, as though we were, as usual, preparing for the immolation of the spotless Lamb; but, after the triple Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! the Church suspends these sacrificial formulas, and turns to the blessing of the palms. The prayers she uses for this blessing are eloquent and full of instruction; and, together with the sprinkling with holy water and the incensation, impart a virtue to these branches, which elevates them to the supernatural order, and makes them means for the sanctification of our souls and the protection of our persons and dwellings. The faithful should hold these palms in their hands during the procession, and during the reading of the Passion at Mass, and keep them in their homes as an outward expression of their faith, and as a pledge of God's watchful love.

    It is scarcely necessary to tell our reader that the palms or olive branches, thus blessed, are carried in memory of those wherewith the people of Jerusalem strewed the road, as our Saviour made His triumphant entry; but a word on the antiquity of our ceremony will not be superfluous. It began very early in the east. It is probable that, as far as Jerusalem itself is concerned, the custom was established immediately after the ages of persecution. St. Cyril, who was bishop of that city in the fourth century, tells us that the palm-tree, from which the people cut the branches when they went out to meet our Saviour, was still to be seen in the vale of Cedron [Cateches. x. versus fin.] Such a circumstance would naturally suggest an annual commemoration of the great event. In the following century, we find this ceremony established, not only in the churches of the east, but also in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria. At the beginning of Lent, many of the holy monks obtained permission from their abbots to retire into the desert, that they might spend the sacred season in strict seclusion; but they were obliged to return to their monasteries for Palm Sunday, as we learn from the life of Saint Euthymius, written by his disciple Cyril [Act. SS. Jan. 2O]. In the west, the introduction of this ceremony was more gradual; the first trace we find of it is in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, that is, at the end of the sixth, or the beginning of the seventh, century. When the faith had penetrated into the north, it was not possible to have palms or olive branches; they were supplied by branches from other trees. The beautiful prayers used in the blessing, and based on the mysteries expressed by the palm and olive trees, are still employed in the blessing of our willow, box, or other branches; and rightly, for these represent the symbolical ones which nature has denied us.

    The second of today's ceremonies is the procession, which comes immediately after the blessing of the palms. It represents our Saviour's journey to Jerusalem, and His entry into the city. To make it the more expressive, the branches that have just been blessed are held in the hand during it. With the Jews, to hold a branch in one's hand was a sign of joy. The divine law had sanctioned this practice, as we read in the following passage from Leviticus, where God commands His people to keep the feast of tabernacles: And you shall take to you, on the first day, the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God [Lev. xxiii. 4O]. It was, therefore, to testify their delight at seeing Jesus enter within their walls, that the inhabitants, even the little children, of Jerusalem, went forth to meet Him with palms in their hands. Let us, also, go before our King, singing our hosannas to Him as the conqueror of death, and the liberator of His people.

    During the middle ages, it was the custom, in many churches, to carry the book of the holy Gospels in this procession. The Gospel contains the words of Jesus Christ, and was considered to represent Him. The procession halted at an appointed place, or station: the deacon then opened the sacred volume, and sang from it the passage which describes our Lord's entry into Jerusalem. This done, the cross which, up to this moment, was veiled, was uncovered; each of the clergy advanced towards it, venerated it, and placed at its foot a small portion of the palm he held in his hand. The procession then returned, preceded by the cross, which was left unveiled until all had re-entered the church. In England and Normandy, as far back as the eleventh century, there was practised a holy ceremony which represented, even more vividly than the one we have just been describing, the scene that was witnessed on this day at Jerusalem: the blessed Sacrament was carried in procession. The heresy of Berengarius, against the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, had been broached about that time; and the tribute of triumphant joy here shown to the sacred Host was a distant preparation for the feast and procession which were to be instituted at a later period.

    A touching ceremony was also practised in Jerusalem during today's procession, and, like those just mentioned, was intended to commemorate the event related by the Gospel. The whole community of the Franciscans (to whose keeping the holy places are entrusted) went in the morning to Bethphage. There, the father guardian of the holy Land, being vested in pontifical robes, mounted upon an ass, on which garments were laid. Accompanied by the friars and the Catholics of Jerusalem, all holding palms in their hands, he entered the city, and alighted at the church of the holy sepulchre where Mass was celebrated with all possible solemnity.

    This beautiful ceremony, which dated from the period of the Latin kingdom in Jerusalem, has been forbidden, for now almost two hundred years, by the Turkish authorities of the city.

    We have mentioned these different usages, as we have done others on similar occasions, in order to aid the faithful to the better understanding of the several mysteries of the liturgy. In the present instance, they will learn that, in today's procession, the Church wishes us to honour Jesus Christ as though He were really among us, and were receiving the humble tribute of our loyalty. Let us lovingly go forth to meet this our King, our Saviour, who comes to visit the daughter of Sion, as the prophet has just told us. He is in our midst; it is to Him that we pay honour with our palms: let us give Him our hearts too. He comes that He may be our King; let us welcome Him as such, and fervently cry out to Him: 'Hosanna to the Son of David!'

    At the close of the procession a ceremony takes place, which is full of the sublimest symbolism. On returning to the church, the doors are found to be shut. The triumphant procession is stopped; but the songs of joy are continued. A hymn in honour of Christ our King is sung with its joyous chorus; and at length the subdeacon strikes the door with the staff of the cross; the door opens, and the people, preceded by the clergy, enter the church, proclaiming the praise of Him, who is our resurrection and our life.

    This ceremony is intended to represent the entry of Jesus into that Jerusalem of which the earthly one was but the figure - the Jerusalem of heaven, which has been opened for us by our Saviour. The sin of our first parents had shut it against us; but Jesus, the King of glory, opened its gates by His cross, to which every resistance yields. Let us, then, continue to follow in the footsteps of the Son of David, for He is also the Son of God, and He invites us to share His kingdom with Him. Thus, by the procession, which is commemorative of what happened on this day, the Church raises up our thoughts to the glorious mystery of the Ascension, whereby heaven was made the close of Jesus' mission on earth. Alas! the interval between these two triumphs of our Redeemer are not all days of joy; and no sooner is our procession over, than the Church, who had laid aside for a moment the weight of her grief, falls back into sorrow and mourning.

    The third part of today's service is the offering of the holy Sacrifice. The portions that are sung by the choir are expressive of the deepest desolation; and the history of our Lord's Passion, which is now to be read by anticipation, gives to the rest of the day that character of sacred gloom, which we all know so well. For the last five or six centuries, the Church has adopted a special chant for this narrative of the holy Gospel. The historian, or the evangelist, relates the events in a tone that is at once grave and pathetic; the words of our Saviour are sung to a solemn yet sweet melody, which strikingly contrasts with the high dominant of the several other interlocutors and the Jewish populace. During the singing of the Passion, the faithful should hold their palms in their hands, and, by this emblem of triumph, protest against the insults offered to Jesus by His enemies. As we listen to each humiliation and suffering, all of which were endured out of love for us, let us offer Him our palm as to our dearest Lord and King. When should we be more adoring, than when He is most suffering?

    These are the leading features of this great day. According to our usual plan, we will add to the prayers and lessons any instructions that seem to be needed.

    This Sunday, besides its liturgical and popular appellation of Palm Sunday, has had several other names. Thus it was called Hosanna Sunday, in allusion to the acclamation wherewith the Jews greeted Jesus on His entry into Jerusalem. Our forefathers used also to call it Pascha Floridum, because the feast of the Pasch (or Easter), which is but eight days off, is today in bud, so to speak, and the faithful could begin from this Sunday to fulfil the precept of Easter Communion. It was in allusion to this name, that the Spaniards, having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, called it Florida. We also find the name of Capililavium given to this Sunday, because, during those times when it was the custom to defer till Holy Saturday the baptism of infants born during the preceding months (where such a delay entailed no danger), the parents used, on this day, to wash the heads of these children, out of respect to the holy chrism wherewith they were to be anointed. Later on, this Sunday was, at least in some churches, called the Pasch of the competents, that is, of the catechumens, who were admitted to Baptism; they assembled today in the church, and received a special instruction on the symbol, which had been given to them in the previous scrutiny. In the Gothic Church of Spain, the symbol was not given till today. The Greeks call this Sunday Baphoros, that is, Palm-bearing.

    Let us pray:

    O almighty and eternal God, who wouldst have our Saviour become man, and suffer on a cross, to give mankind an example of humility; mercifully grant that we may improve by the example of his patience, and partake of his resurrection. Through the same, &c.

    Let us now go over in our minds the other events which happened to our divine Lord on this day of His solemn entry into Jerusalem. St. Luke tells us that it was on His approach to the city, that Jesus wept over it, and spoke these touching words: 'If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace! But now they are hidden from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, and thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, and beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee; and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone; because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation.' [St. Luke xix. 42-44].

    A few days ago, we were reading in the holy Gospel how Jesus wept over the tomb of Lazarus; today He sheds tears over Jerusalem. At Bethania His weeping was caused by the sight of bodily death, the consequence and punishment of sin; but this death is not irremediable: Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and he that believeth in Him shall live [St. John xi. 25]. Whereas, the state of the unfaithful Jerusalem is a figure of the death of the soul, and from this there is no resurrection, unless the soul, while time is given to her, return to the Author of life. Hence it is, that the tears shed by Jesus over Jerusalem are so bitter. Amidst the acclamations which greet His entry into the city of David, His heart is sad; for He sees that many of her inhabitants will not profit of the time of her visitation. Let us console the Heart of our Jesus, and be to Him a faithful Jerusalem.

    The sacred historian tells us that Jesus, immediately upon His entrance into the city, went to the temple, and cast out all them that sold and bought there [St. Matt. xxi. 12]. This was the second time that He had shown His authority in His Father's house, and no one had dared to resist Him. The chief priests and pharisees found fault with Him, and accused Him to His face, of causing confusion by His entry into the city; but our Lord confounded them by the reply He made. It is thus that in after ages, when it has pleased God to glorify His Son and the Church of His Son, the enemies of both have given vent to their rage; they protested against the triumph, but they could not stop it. But when God, in the unsearchable ways of His wisdom, allowed persecution and trial to follow these periods of triumph, then did these bitter enemies redouble their efforts to induce the very people, that had cried Hosanna to the Son of David, to clamour for His being delivered up and crucified. They succeeded in fomenting persecution, but not in destroying the kingdom of Christ and His Church. The kingdom seemed, at times, to be interrupted in its progress; but the time for another triumph came. Thus will it be to the end; and then, after all these changes from glory to humiliation, and from humiliation to glory, the kingdom of Jesus and of His bride will gain the last and eternal triumph over this world, which would not know the time of its visitation.

    We learn from St. Matthew [St. Matt. xxi. 17] that our Saviour spent the remainder of this day at Bethania. His blessed Mother and the house of Lazarus were comforted by His return. There was not a single offer of hospitality made to Him in Jerusalem, at least there is no mention in the Gospel of any such offer. We cannot help making the reflection, as we meditate upon this event of our Lord's life:- an enthusiastic reception is given to Him in the morning, He is proclaimed by the people as their King; but when the evening of that day comes on, there is not one of all those thousands to offer Him food or lodging. In the Carmelite monasteries of St. Teresa's reform, there is a custom, which has been suggested by this thought, and is intended as a reparation for this ingratitude shown to our Redeemer. A table is placed in the middle of the refectory; and after the community have finished their dinner, the food which was placed upon that table is distributed among the poor, and Jesus is honoured in them.

    HYMN: (In Dominica Palmarum)

    Lo! the God that sitteth, in the highest heavens, upon the Cherubim, and looketh down on lowly things, cometh in glory and power, all creatures are full of His divine praise. Peace upon Israel, and salvation to the Gentiles!

    The souls of the just cried out with joy: Now is prepared a new Covenant for the world, and mankind is renewed by the sprinkling of the divine Blood!

    The people fell upon their knees, and, rejoicing with the disciples, sang, with palms in their hands: Hosanna to the Son of David! Praiseworthy and blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers!

    The simple-hearted people, yea, and little children, (the fittest to adore God) praised Him as King of Israel and of the angels: Praiseworthy and blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers!

    O Sion! there came to thee Christ, thy King. seated on a young colt: for He came that he might loose mankind from the senseless error of idolatry, and tame the wild passions of all nations; that thus they might praise Thee, singing: Bless the Lord, all ye His works, and extol Him above all for ever!

    Christ thy Lord hath reigned for ever. He, as it is written, the meek one, the Saviour, our just Redeemer, came riding on an ass's colt, that He might destroy the pride of His enemies, who would not sing these words: Bless the Lord, all ye His works, and extol Him above all for ever!

    The unjust and obstinate Sanhedrim, the usurpers of the holy temple, are put to flight; for they had made God's house of prayer a den of thieves, and shut their hearts against the Redeemer, to whom we cry: Bless the Lord, all ye His works, and extol Him above all forever!

    God is our Lord, he hath appeared unto us. Appoint a solemn feast, and come, let us rejoice and magnify the Christ, praising Him, with palms and branches in our hands: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour!

    Why, O ye Gentiles, have ye raged? Why, O ye scribes and priests, have ye devised vain things. saying: Who is this, unto whom children, with palms and branches in their hands, cry aloud this praise: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour?

    Why, O ye perverse of heart, have ye thrown stumbling-blocks in the way? Your feet are swift to shed the Blood of the Lord. But He will rise again, that He may save all that cry to Him: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour!


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