Christ Came To Serve (Holy Thursday)

  When he takes on the servile task of washing the Apostles’ feet, Jesus doesn’t simply speak but acts out his message, in the manner of an Old Testament prophet.  He is showing the Apostles through his example that the purpose of their office is to serve, and not to exalt themselves.

A Hymn For Holy Week: O Sacred Head Surrounded

   J.S. Bach’s magnificent St. Matthew Passion is perhaps the most prominent musical composition that we associate with Lent. The most well-known part of the St. Matthew Passion itself is the “Passion Chorale”, which  often appears a hymn called  “O Sacred Head Surrounded”, or “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”        What’s not as well known is that Bach is […]

Who Are Those Cheering People? Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

There’s something a little unsettling about Palm Sunday.  It appears that the same people who welcome Jesus as a victorious king at the beginning of the week are screaming for his death by its end. The liturgy reminds us of this incongruity by putting Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday together (at least in the Ordinary Form; […]

Why did Jesus ‘Take the Form of a Slave’?

     Christ has broken our chains, but here’s the catch: we need to be willing to shake them off, get up, and follow him. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) . . .

“Let It Be Done To Me According To Thy Word” – The Annunciation and Us

   I often used to admire a stained glass window that looks down on the altar in the cathedral where I used to attend Mass with my family.  The scene in the window is the Annunciation. It depicts the young Mary, kneeling on the floor and surrounded by angels, while God the father looks down on her […]

Music for Lent: J.S. Bach’s “Erbarme Dich” (from St. Matthew’s Passion)

Yesterday was the fifth Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Passiontide: the liturgical prayers and observances of the Church are building ever more urgently to the climax of the Triduum. Today’s musical selection, my second-to-last Lenten music post, is from what is perhaps the greatest musical composition created for the penitential season, Johann Sebastian Bach’s […]

The Crisis of Fatherhood and the Litany of St. Joseph

     How odd St. Joseph, the human father of Jesus, must look to so many of us today.  We live in an age that distrusts the traditional features of fatherhood, and even denigrates them as “toxic masculinity.”  Small wonder that fatherhood itself is in steep decline.  According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, “19.7 million children in America—more than one […]

St. Patrick, Julius Caesar, and Slavery to Sin

St. Patrick is, of course, the Patron Saint of Ireland, but he wasn’t originally Irish. He was Romano-British, probably born in what is now southern Scotland, or possibly Wales. His first introduction to the Emerald Isle was as a slave, after he had been kidnapped as a youth by Irish raiders . . .

Attende Domine: More Music for Lent

We hear the moving ancient hymn “Attende Domine” frequently during the season of Lent, especially at TLM masses.  It is the cry of repentant sinners imploring God’s forgiveness: Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi: literally, “Take heed, Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned against you.” The Latin text dates from around the tenth […]

Do You Consider Yourself a Leper?

     A few years ago, during a previous Lent, I attended a mass in which the Gospel reading came from Matthew 8, which included the following passage:  . . . and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”  And he stretched out his hand […]