Before Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, he agreed to allow a viewing of the Shroud of Turin to be broadcast live across the world on RAI, the state television channel, on March 30 in commemoration of Holy Saturday for the Year of Faith.
Now, I read today, Pope Francis has recorded a voice-over introduction for the broadcast. There is also an app called “Shroud 2.0″ which enables people to explore the holy relic in detail on their smart phones and tablets.
Even more interesting is the release of a new book called The Mystery of the Shroud by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist. According to their tests, the shroud dates from between the years 300 BC and 400 AD.
Holy Saturday is a day of anticipation. We ponder with gratitude the sacrifice of Our Lord who bore our sins on the Cross to redeem us from sin and death. And we await with joy and hope the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday. Forever will this day be linked in my mind to the image of the Shroud of Turin.
“The shroud, of course, reminds us of the passion, death and burial of the Lord, and then to Holy Friday, the day in which the Church remembers and celebrates the passion of Christ,” reflected Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin. “Holy Saturday is a day of silent prayer and meditation on the Lord’s death, but it is also a day of joyful waiting of the light of the Resurrection that will explode in the great celebration of the Easter vigil.” The shroud, he noted, “is a witness of this double mystery: It brings us back to the darkness of the tomb, but it also opens the way to receive the light that from it will emerge, in the event of the Resurrection.”
Pope Benedict gave a beautiful homily about Holy Saturday while on a visit to the Shroud in 2010. Here is an excerpt:
Holy Saturday is a “no man’s land” between the death and the Resurrection, but this “no man’s land” was entered by One, the Only One, who passed through it with the signs of His Passion for man’s sake: Passio Christi. Passio hominis (the Passion of Christ, the suffering of man).
….In this “time-beyond-time,” Jesus Christ “descended to the dead”. What do these words mean? They mean that God, having made Himself man, reached the point of entering man’s most extreme and absolute solitude, where not a ray of love enters, where total abandonment reigns without any word of comfort: “hell.”
Jesus Christ, by remaining in death, passed beyond the door of this ultimate solitude to lead us too to cross it with Him. We have all, at some point, felt the frightening sensation of abandonment, and that is what we fear most about death, just as when we were children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and could only be reassured by the presence of a person who loved us. Well, this is exactly what happened on Holy Saturday: the voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred: namely, Love penetrated “hell.” Even in the extreme darkness of the most absolute human loneliness we may hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes ours and leads us out.
Human beings live because they are loved and can love; and if love even penetrated the realm of death, then life also even reached there. In the hour of supreme solitude we shall never be alone: Passio Christi. Passio hominis.
The latest issue of the Sisters of Life newsletter has an article about Cardinal John O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, talking to the sisters about a crisis of faith he had experienced many years ago. Excerpts of this hopeful message is very apropos for Good Friday.
Many years ago,as a priest, I felt I had lost my faith. I was in Okinawa, many thousands of miles from home….I was the only priest, for thousands of men without families, without the ones they loved, torn by a thousand temptations….I would offer my Mass each day. I would hear confessions, I would preach. I would work, if anything, harder than usual.
Then the long night would come. I felt total emptiness, of Christ on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I would go to my little tin hut chapel and there I would kneel in the darkness before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, in the glow of the little red tabernacle lamp. There, I would pray to what it was very difficult for me not to believe was but an empty tabernacle….It was an experience of extended, indescribable, terrifying desolation, of emptiness, of meaninglessness….While I had no sense of faith, and surely no sense of hope, I never completely lost the love of the Eucharist.
And the one day, as quickly as it came, the darkness and the desolation left and the glory of the Resurrection filled the totality of my being….I knew that I would never waver in faith or hope again.
There may be some who find it difficult to believe in the Eucharistic presence of Christ. Don’t try to believe. Just let yourself love and be loved by the Eucharistic Christ. When you receive Him in Holy Communion don’t ponder theological questions. Say, “This is my love. I have receive my love; my love has received me.”
Without love, there can be no joy. One could truly define the absence of joy as an absence of love, a failure to love. I felt no joy in Okinawa, and I felt no faith and felt no hope because I had suppressed love. The Love remained, the Love saved, the Love purified, but I had to let it become active again within me….I had to remember that the Eucharistic Christ is not simply the presence of Christ, but the presence of Christ who is love. And oh how I prayed through Mary, Mary, the womb of the Eucharistic Christ; Mary the womb of love!
In this day and age when homogenization seems to rule the day, it is wonderful to know that there are some venerable orders like the Dominicans and the Carmelites who still retain their ancient liturgical practices. In particular, the Norbertine liturgy during Holy Week is replete with symbols which echo back to ancient practices. Saint Norbert lived around the time of the Crusades and since the Latin Catholic liturgy was the predominant from of worship in Jerusalem, the liturgical practices of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the site of our Lord’s Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection, had a profound impact on the Norbertine liturgy.
First, the Norbertines’ habit is white, like the original canons of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, symbolizing the angels who announced the Lord’s Resurrection.
At the end of the Palm Sunday procession, there is an unveilng and a threefold adoration of the Holy Cross, a 12th century practice in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
On Good Friday, there is a special form of the unveiling and adoration of the Cross, symbolizing the Eastern and Western Churches uniting at the foot of Calvary.
It is the tradition in the Holy Land to celebrate the Mass of the place versus the Mass of the day. So, for example, in Bethlehem, no matter what the day of the year (with some exceptions), the Mass celebrating the Lord’s birth is the order of the day. It is also true that in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Easter Mass is usually celebrated every single day of the year. The Norbertines imitated this practice by celebrating the Mass of Easter each Sunday of Easter. At St. Michael’s Abbey in California, the Easter Antiphon of Easter Sunday is sung on each Sunday of the Easter season.
Finally, the Church calls for all the faithful to bow in reverence during the Nicene Creed when we recall the Incarnation. The Norbertines extend this reverence when the Nicene Creed is sung though the words professing faith in Jesus’ Burial and they rise from this reverence when they profess faith in His Resurrection. Once again, this practice comes from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
For more information, see the Spring 2013 issue of the St. Michael Messenger from St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, CA. If you are nearby a Norbertine Abbey, try attend a Norbertine liturgy and deepen your experience of Holy Week and the holy season of Easter. You don’t have to be a pilgrim to the Holy Land to experience a little bit of the uniqueness that comes from these ancient and deeply moving liturgical traditions.
that she may accompany us during Holy Week.
May she, who followed her Son with faith all the way to Calvary,
help us to walk behind Him, carrying His cross with serenity and love,
so as to attain the joy of Easter.
Pope Francis I
Sunday, February 2, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life. Pope John Paul II instituted this special remembrance “to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels.”
This particular day was chosen because, the Holy Father noted, “the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total offering of one’s life for all those who are called to show forth in the Church and in the world, by means of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one.”
In support of this day of prayer for consecrated men and women, the IRL has published a novena booklet: Living Signs of the Gospel: A Novena to Support All Consecrated Persons in the Church, written by Msgr. Charles M. Mangan, highlighting excerpts from the Holy Father’s nine messages/homilies for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. The goal of this novena is:
1) To pray for consecrated men and women
2) To strengthen consecrated life
3) To pray for vocations to the consecrated life
Please join us in saying this novena during 2013. A free copy of the booklet may be obtained by calling the IRL office at (847)573-8975 or by e-mailing us at IRLstaff@religiouslife.com.
Today, 12/12/12, is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. The beautiful image of Our Lady on the tilma (cactus fiber cloak) that can be seen in Mexico City still resonates with people today, just as it did 500 or so years ago with the Aztecs and all the native peoples of South America. The conversions to Catholicism and belief in the Triune God were astounding. As was mentioned in our homily today, as the Reformation drew people out of the Church in Europe, Our Lady gathered them into the embrace of the Church in Mexico.
The image is on a rough fabric that should have deteriorated many centuries ago. The black sash around her waist indicated to the Aztecs that she was with child yet her hair was loose indicating that she was a maiden/virgin. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Because she appeared as a pregnant young women, she has been adopted by the pro-life community as their patroness.
Her hands, as a newsletter from the Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate says, are clasped in prayer indicating that “she was not God for she was praying to God.” The newsletter contains detailed descriptions of the images on the tilma and their symbolism for the Aztecs then and for us today.
There are many other signs and wonders in the tilma which are endlessly, and in fascinating way, discussed on various websites. Here is one video talking about the miraculously aspects of the tilma.
May Our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for our country, especially for those who defend and protect the lives of innocent children in the womb.