«OF CRIMES AND PENALTIES». THE UNMISSABLE EXTRAVAGANCIES OF CERTAIN PRIESTS IN THE LIGHT OF THE EASTER MYSTERY
In Education Sacramentum, it is perhaps written that for certain liturgical abuses, some of which are real "crimes", the penalty is foreseen, for example the suspension peep by the priest for a suitable period of time? Perhaps it is expected, for the more serious ones, removal from the office of pastor? No, because perhaps this way of doing would not be charitable and merciful, therefore our legislator exhorts, he instructs and in his own papers he laments with a broken heart, while the abuser continues to do so in the total lack of precise penalties.
— Liturgical ministry —
There is a famous work by Cesare Beccaria written in 1764 which is called Of crimes and punishments, where we speak above all of the promptness and certainty of punishment. How many times, in our country, especially in the face of situations of more or less widespread crime, we have heard the sentence and the lament "there is no certainty of punishment"? To tell the truth, what is missing is the application of the penalty, because in terms of existing, the penalties are there and they are written and well detailed. Instead we, on this issue Of crimes and punishments, we don't even question, because in the various documents and acts of the Magisterium of the Church in recent decades the word "sanction" or "penalty" does not exist at all, in fact, there are two essential things that are done in practice: he complains with a broken heart about certain situations that just don't go right, then it is exhorted with documents that are often called "exhortations" or "instructions" for this very reason, such as education Sacramentum, in which he instructs himself with a trembling and afflicted heart not to do certain things.
I went to browse the Criminal Law Code and the texts of various laws taken at random, and I found out, to my amazement, that a penalty is foreseen for every crime, which can be a penalty of a certain number of years in prison, or an administrative fine for less serious offences, through the obligation to pay an established sum of money. Accustomed as I am to the style of our documents, I wondered why, the legislator, it is not limited to exhorting and instructing that certain crimes are not committed, manifesting all his "powerless" pain for those who are committed instead.
In Education Sacramentum, it is perhaps written that for certain liturgical abuses, some of which are real "crimes", the penalty is foreseen, for example the suspension peep by the priest for a suitable period of time? Perhaps it is expected, for the more serious ones, removal from the office of pastor? No, because perhaps this way of doing would not be charitable and merciful, therefore our legislator exhorts, he instructs and in his papers he laments with a broken heart, while the abuser continues to do so in the total lack of precise penalties.
To talk about the theme of liturgical abuse, some of which have now been institutionalized and have become almost a norm in certain parishes or in certain Catholic lay groups, I will take what is the heart of our liturgy: Easter.
During this year's Easter Triduum 2023 between the evening of Holy Thursday and Saturday morning our Readers sent us photographs and films in front of which we Fathers of The Island of Patmos, that we have also sailed, as well as being aware of the extravagance of which some of our confreres are unfortunately capable, we found it hard to believe, even in front of photos and documents.
We offer you only a small overview of what reached the editorial office during the Holy Easter Triduum, especially regarding the repositioning of the Blessed Sacrament inside the Sepulchres at the altars of repositioning on Holy Thursday and what happened following Good Friday.
Holy thursday. A dining table with chairs was set up in a chapel in the relocation, set with tablecloth, dishes, cutlery and glasses, to one side the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament, probably to indicate that Our Lord Jesus Christ, instead of on the cross, he died at the end of a lunch attacked by a sudden apoplectic stroke. In another chapel of the reposition, the pyx with the Blessed Sacrament was placed on a table with a life ring around it, hanging life jackets were arranged instead of flowers, as if Our Lord Jesus Christ, instead of cross, died drowned in the sea while from Judea trying to land as a clandestine on the Mediterranean coast. And still to follow: the Blessed Sacrament placed on the altar of reposition in a microwave oven, apparently to symbolize how the Lord warms hearts (!?).
Good Friday. The images and videos that have come down to us raise in us the serious question whether certain priests have ever read the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and whether during the initial formation and the performance of the sacred ministry to follow, have really understood what the Easter Triduum is, for example by reading a twentieth-century work written by the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, in Italian edition "The theology of the three days" (1969). Work that offers a meditation on the paschal mystery according to the scansion of the three days: the mystery of good friday (the cross in the life of Jesus, l'Eucharist, the agony), the mystery of Holy Saturday (in which Christ experiences the "second death"), the mystery of Easter as theology of the resurrection and glorification of the Son. Good Friday, day in which the passion of Christ the Lord is commemorated, during an austere and silent liturgy entirely centered on the adoration of the cross, it is never conceivable that one can sing to the sound of rhythmic guitars and tambourines cheerful school-camp songs, even chanting «hallelujah, hallelujah” in choruses of totally inappropriate and out of place songs? Has anyone perhaps forgotten the omission from the liturgy of the Gloria and Alleluia during the Lenten period, or the so-called "tied bells" on Holy Thursday which will ring again only on Easter day together with the singing of the Gloria and Alleluia to praise the Risen from the dead?
Another author who has guided us in the mystery of the Easter Triduum theology it was the Florentine Father Divo Barsotti, that in one of his sermons of 1987 explained the mystagogical meaning of the "descent into hell" of Jesus Christ, article of faith also contained in the Apostolic Creed in which we recite «[…] he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; descended into hell; on the third day he rose from the dead". Let's ask ourselves: how many are the Catholic faithful today who understand the meaning of the "descent" into those hells also referred to in the ancient tradition as Sheol o Eden, the "kingdom of the dead" where the dead Jesus Christ descended with his soul united to his divine Person, to open the gates of heaven to the righteous who had preceded him (cf.. Catechism of the Catholic Church NN. 631-635).
The Easter Triduum, in its symbology, contains a great and wise pedagogy, a sum of catechesis for the people of believers, which certainly cannot end up debased by extravaganzas staged almost always in the name of the politically correct of the moment.
Let us now see what that Easter triduum is liturgically which concludes with what the Church indicates as the Mother of all Vigils, in the hope that it will serve as a reflection for next Easter 2024. IThe Easter Triduum is the reality of the Lord's Easter, celebrated liturgically and sacramentally in three days: on Good Friday, which makes a living memory of the Passion and Death of the Lord; on Holy Saturday, in which the Church stops at the sepulcher of the Lord; Easter Sunday which celebrates the glorious Resurrection of Christ. A characteristic of the Triduum celebrations is that they are organized as a single liturgy, for this reason the Mass of the Lord's Supper does not end with ite missa is (”Mass is over”), but in silence. The liturgical action on Friday does not begin with the usual greeting and with the Sign of the Cross and also ends without a greeting, in silence. Finally, the solemn vigil begins in silence and ends with the final greeting.
The Easter Triduum constitutes a single solemnity, the most important of the entire Catholic liturgical year. From the Gloria from Thursday Mass to that of the Vigil the bells must remain in liturgical silence. In ancient times, even musical instruments had to be silent on Holy Friday and Saturday, until the Easter Vigil, to better express the penitential meaning of these days. For this reason, many compositions by ancient authors for Good Friday were written for choir only. Today, however, the use of musical instruments is permitted during the celebrations of these days, even if only to support the singing.
Vertex and gravitational center of the entire Triduum it is the Solemn Easter Vigil in the Holy Night. With the celebration of Mass of the Lord's Supper, the Easter Triduum of the Passion begins on the evening of Holy Thursday, death and resurrection of Christ, culmination of the entire liturgical year and heart of the faith and prayer of the Church (cf.. SC 102). On Holy Thursday the Church commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus in which the Lord Jesus, the eve of the Passion, carried to the extreme his love for his own who were in the world, he offered his Body and Blood to the Father under the appearances of bread and wine and, giving himself as nourishment to his apostles, he commanded them to perpetuate the offering in his memory, effectively establishing the priesthood of the New Covenant. Obedient to the command of the Lord, the Church celebrates the Holy Supper, feeling committed to translating the style of service and fraternal love into everyday life (cf.. the sign of the washing of the feet, proper to the liturgy of Holy Thursday) which he has in the Sacrifice of the Lord, sacredly present in the Eucharist, its meaning and source. The texts used in this celebration underline the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist and its character as a memorial of the Lord's sacrifice (other than “Cena Santa…”), announced and prefigured by the events of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, with the symbol of the immolated lamb and the passage of the angel of the Lord to strike the firstborn of Egypt (I reading); "memorial" that the blessed Apostle Paul describes as a rite celebrated by Jesus in the paschal meal with his apostles, sign of the new and eternal Covenant between God and men, sealed and ratified with his own blood (II reading). Finally - closely linked to the two readings - the Gospel passage from John shows us Jesus who, despite being Master and Lord, he becomes a servant, washing the feet of his apostles. With this gesture, the Lord Jesus wanted to show that his mission was the greatest service that God offered to men to save them: wash them of sins and feed them with his Body and Blood.
The Preface of this Mass summarizes the ineffable mystery of divine love:
«True and eternal priest, he instituted the rite of perennial sacrifice; to you first offered himself a victim of salvation, and he commanded us to make the offering in his memory. His Body immolated for us is our food and gives us strength, his Blood shed for us is the drink that redeems us from all guilt».
At the end of Mass of the Lord's Supper Maundy Thursday, the Eucharist is placed and kept in the altar of Reposition, called in the popular language of some regions of southern Italy tomb. Improper term as it does not symbolize the death of Jesus but is the place to worship the Eucharist. The right term is altar O chapel of the Reposition. Let's talk about the church space set up, at the end of Mass of the Lord's Supper, to welcome the consecrated Eucharistic species, keeping them until the afternoon of Good Friday, when they will be distributed to the faithful for sacramental communion. The Sacred Species are thus placed away to be worshiped during the night. It is tradition that the altars of reposition are solemnly decorated, with flower arrangements or other symbols: they must not be the place of extravagance or the forcing of signs that have nothing to do with the sole purpose of inviting the faithful to adoration. The circular letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship of 16 January 1988 by title Preparation and celebration of Easter holidays specifies the following about the altar of reposition:
«The Sacrament is kept in a closed tabernacle. You can never make the exhibition with the monstrance. The tabernacle or custody must not have the shape of a sepulchre. Avoid the very term "sepulchre". In fact, the chapel of the reposition is set up not to represent "the burial of the Lord", but to keep the Eucharistic bread for communion, which will be distributed on Friday in the passion of the Lord. The faithful are invited to stay in the church, after Mass at the Lord's Supper, for a suitable amount of time during the night, for due adoration of the Blessed Sacrament solemnly kept there on this day. During the extended Eucharistic Adoration some part of the Gospel according to John can be read. After midnight, adoration should be done without solemnity, since the day of the Lord's passion has already begun" (NN. 55-56).
Good Friday the Church celebrates the Passion and Death of her Lord and remains in loving contemplation and meditation of his bloody sacrifice, source of our salvation. By ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist on this day, but only a solemn Liturgy of the Word, followed by the adoration of the cross and Holy Communion.
In front of the completely bare altar, after the prostration of the celebrant in the silence of the assembly and the introductory prayer, are proclaimed three readings:
– the fourth song of the Servant of IHWH (Is 52, 13-15; 53, 1-12), where in the figure of the servant loaded with our pains, chastised, smitten and humbled and yet will justify many and by whose stripes we have been healed, it is not difficult to recognize the figure of Jesus, the one who has sinned, it has become the disgust of neighbors and the horror of acquaintances (cf.. Salmo responsoriale) and that it is our only way of salvation.
– The second reading is taken from the letter to the Hebrews (cf.. 4, 14-16; 5, 7-9) and specifies that Christ the suffering servant of IHWH is the high priest who has been tested in everything and who becomes the cause of eternal salvation for those who obey him.
– The Gospel reports the story of the Passion according to John (cf.. 18, 1 – 19,42). The death of Jesus is the supreme revelation of God's love which is sacramentally prolonged over the centuries in the water (Baptismo) and in the Blood (Eucharist) and is intimately linked to the gift of the Holy Spirit and to the birth of the Church, represented by the Holy Virgin Mary and the Apostle John. The homily is then followed by a solemn universal prayer in which supplications are raised for the Church, dad, for all sacred orders and the faithful, for catechumens, for Christian unity, for Jews, for non-Christians, for those who don't believe in God, for the rulers and for the afflicted.
As a consequence of the word heard and accepted, then follows the solemn Adoration of the Cross, "scandalous" and prophetic gesture because it is no longer venerated as a simple instrument of infamous death, but as a tree of life, “thalamus, throne and altar to the body of Christ the Lord". The priest uncovers the cross three times, presenting it to the people as a trophy of victory and saying: «Here is the wood of the cross, on which Christ was hung, savior of the world"; the assembly responds to this invitation: "Come on, we worship!». The assembly then performs the gesture of adoration, remembering that Easter is already fulfilled at that moment, our salvation is accomplished in the blood of the immolated Lamb: « We adore your cross, man; we praise and glorify your holy resurrection. From the wood of the cross, joy has come all over the world". At the end of the adoration, the cross is placed near the altar, it too is a sign of Christ's sacrifice, offered to the Father for our salvation.
To the adoration of the cross, follows the Eucharistic Communion, with the sacred Species consecrated the previous day. The Commemoration of the Passion concludes with a prayer of blessing over the congregation, which then dissolves in silence.
Holy Saturday. The Roman Missal presents this day to us with these words:
«On Holy Saturday the Church stops at the sepulcher of the Lord, pondering his passion and his death, as well as the descent into hell, and waiting for his resurrection, in prayer and fasting. The sacred table stripped, the Church abstains from the sacrifice of the Mass until the solemn vigil or nocturnal expectation of the resurrection". The Church is called first of all to meditate on the fact that Jesus "died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Color 15, 3-4).
Contemplate what he professes in the Creed by stating "he descended into hell": Jesus Christ shows solidarity with the man to be saved, facing death in the certainty that he would have won it not only for himself, but for everyone. From this point of view, Holy Saturday is a day of great hope! On Holy Saturday the Christian is called to imitate the pious women who after the burial of Jesus "were there in front of the tomb" (Mt 27, 61). It is no small matter to stop us too, in an atmosphere of faith and love, to pray, meditate and contemplate: may be desert day, of prayer and enlightened hope in God who chose not only to die for us, but to rise again and make us sharers in his resurrected life.
The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night it is the apex and center of the whole Easter Triduum. Considered the “mother of all vigils”, in it the Church waits, watching, the resurrection of Christ and celebrates it in the sacraments (cf. Norms for the liturgical year and the calendar, 21). All the celebration of this Vigil, therefore, it must take place at night and finish before dawn on Sunday. This is the night par excellence, where the great sacraments of Christian initiation are celebrated (Baptismo, Confirmation, Eucharist), which communicate to the faithful the saving grace of Christ's paschal mystery. The Easter Vigil consists of four parts:
- Liturgy of light or skylight. The Vigil opens with the celebration of the Risen Christ as the light of the world. The priest blesses a blazing fire (generally prepared outside the Church) and prepare the paschal candle, carving a cross on it, the Greek letters A and W and the digits of the current year, following this pattern:
While making this gesture, acclaim Christ the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, to which Time belongs, the centuries, glory and power. Engraving completed, the celebrant can inflict 5 grains of incense in the shape of a cross and while making this gesture he acclaims the holy wounds, glorious and saving graces of Christ. The Cero is lit on the new fire and a procession begins which heads towards the presbytery; during this procession he is acclaimed three times "Lumen Christi!” and the candles of the faithful and the lights of the Church are lit. Placed the candle in its candlestick, the deacon proclaims the solemn Paschal Preconium (said "Exulte”) a beautiful text that announces the glory of Christ's resurrection, summit of the whole history of salvation, started after Adam's sin, depicted in the Passover lamb, from the exodus, from the passage of the Red Sea, from the pillar of fire and fully realized by the dead and risen Christ. The Preconium is an enthusiastic song that, recapitulating all the great moments in the history of God and man, expresses the exultation of heaven and earth, because with the resurrection of Christ also the universe, bruised by sin, it resurrects and renews itself. A text that should be meditated on for a long time and even personally prayed for.
Liturgy of the Word. Completed the skylight, the celebrant invites us to listen to the Word to meditate «how in the old covenant God saved his people and in the fullness of time sent his Son to us as redeemer». Nine readings are then proclaimed (seven from the Old Testament and two from the New), with the aim of introducing the faithful to the meaning and importance of Easter in the life of the Church and of every Christian, in relation to the paschal sacraments (Baptismo, Confirmation and Eucharist) by which we died and were raised with Christ:
I reading: Gen 1, 1 – 2, 2: the creation
II reading: Gen 22, 1-18: the test of Abraham
III reading: Is 14, 15 – 15, 1: the passage of the Red Sea
Fourth reading: Is 54, 5-14: Your spouse is the Creator
V reading: Is 55, 1-11: All you thirsty come to the water
VI reading: Bar 3, 9-15. 32 – 4, 4: The eternal covenant
VII reading: This 36, 16-17a. 18-28: I will sprinkle you with pure water
Gospel: One of the three synoptics according to the liturgical cycle
Between the VII reading and the Epistle the Gloria and at the end of the Epistle – after the Lenten “fast” – theAlleluia.
Baptismal Liturgy: Since ancient times, the Church has linked the administration of Baptism with the Easter Vigil, immersion in the death of Christ and resurrection with him to new life. After the singing of the litanies of the saints, the baptismal water is blessed - with the particular gesture of dipping the Paschal candle in it three times - with which Baptism is administered and the assembly is sprinkled, after this has renewed the profession of faith with the baptismal promises.
The Vigil ends with the Eucharistic Liturgy, which becomes the fulfillment of all the highest and most significant celebration and thanksgiving addressed to the Father for having given us his Son who died and rose again for our salvation. In fact, the true Eucharist began with Easter, in which, until the end of the ages, the Church will acclaim «Christ the true Lamb who took away the sins of the world; Christ that, by dying he destroyed death and by rising he gave us life again" (Preface Pasquale I). And this is how the "Day of the Lord" begins, day of life without sunset, in which the duty of every believer is to "seek the things above" and to "hide one's life with the risen Christ in God".
I have a question for you all, and together with the question, I leave the burden of the answer to all of you: the central heart of the founding mystery of our faith, it is the resurrection of Christ, before which the Apostle Paul affirms that if he had not truly risen our faith and our hope would be completely in vain (cf.. The Cor 15, 12-15) it may perhaps be a reason and an occasion to launch oneself into extravagances that often risk transcending between desecration and outright sacrilege? Everything is possible, when exhorted, he educates himself, but transgressors are not punished, to do so would be a lack of mercy, a pity this yes, absolutely intolerable.
Florence, 12 May 2023
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