As we stand primed to accompany Our Lord in His sacred Passion, a reminder, and a minor lament, before returning to work.
1. Reminder: if you are planning to attend Solemn High Mass at St. Francis de Sales Oratory this Sunday, remember that the blessing of palms and procession begin at 9:30 am– NOT the usual 10 am.
2. Holy Week is beyond personal likes or dislikes, obviously. So, don’t take this comment the wrong way, because I know I have to get over this sort of thing. But, every Holy Week is, in addition to the events we commemorate, on the purely personal level of the faithful in the pew, bittersweet to me.
Most of my past life has been as a typical novus ordo attendee, and I have seen that form celebrated (sometimes) more or (more often) less faithfully according to its rubrics. Holy Week brings out the best in the Church and the worst in liturgical committees. It brings out the best in priests who show us how to enter in to the sacred Passion, and the worst in the priests who try to be Emeril Lagasse, Wavy Gravy and Tony Robbins all in one. I have seen all of the now so-typical abuses of Holy Week– the mass-washing of feet by all of the congregation at once, men and women included; messing with the form and content of Easter Vigil lessons, including weaving them into one groovy play; messing with the account of the Passion, including letting the congregation read the part of Jesus, etc., etc.
When I finally embraced the Traditional Mass I was so blessed to escape all of that annual drama, the drama of whether the Masses would be properly celebrated. I was even more blessed for a couple of Holy Weeks to be aware of Masses according to pre-1955 rubrics. Many readers know, but many may not, that the same architect of the the novus ordo, Annibale Bugnini, was able to alter in a less substantial way the Masses of Holy Week. It was, in retrospect, a kind of mini-Spirit of V2 moment, with similar tactics. Calling changes “restoration”, a few parts of Mass calling for the priest to turn away from ad orientem, limited verbal participation by the faithful, jettisoning venerable sacramentals and prayers, and cutting lots of lessons from the Vigil Mass. And other seemingly little things.
With the promulgation of the motu proprio, it is hard to find a pre-1955 Holy Week Mass, unless you hit a so-called “independent” chapel, which I would not. So, the liturgical geek in me notices all of the Bugnini-changes like finding grains of sand, or strands of hair, in haute cuisine. They. just. bug. me.
It’s almost worse than Fr. Wavy putting on his show, or having immodestly dressed women in hip-huggers carrying bowls of incense around in procession. Because it was the harbinger of the liturgical destruction that was to come.
I guess I am often an alternative history guy, who likes to posit what-if?s about the event markers of the long defeat of civilization. What if the Armada won? What if the Eastern Empire remained faithful? What if the Consecration had been done and the secret revealed before 1960? Stuff like that consumes more of my time than it should.
So, every Holy Week, while praying for a true restoration of the Holy Week liturgy, I have to remind myself to offer up all of my own petty concerns to be nailed to the Cross of Christ. My own sins have contributed so much to His suffering and death, and add weight to the burden He bears. I am thankful that the Mass survived.
When the day comes, if it comes, that I am holy, I will have time enough to complain– or rather, to realize I shouldn’t.
Mary, Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces, pray for us!