Feria Secunda Maioris Hebdomadae, Monday in Holy Week...

And it is still dark, before Dawn rises... well, that was about five hours ago; I neglected to 'publish', tsk. The Mass for today is Iúdica, Dómine, nocéntes me (Introibo), live streamed from Saint-Eugène at 1000. Am going downtown to Saint Mary's for Holy Mass at 1215; haven't yet made up my mind how I'm getting down there-- walking to the bus stop and then riding, or calling for a cab, or....

I know I swore off Lyft after Saturday's débâcle but I may try them again, if only to re-establish a peaceful working relationship before getting to Portland. The second Lyft driver, the one without the retinal tear, told me that some people keep three apps on their mobiles: Lyft, Uber, and then some unnamed third that apparently sorts out for the rider which car service is going to be least expensive in a given set of circumstances. The drawback to the bus, apart from the walking (which in most circumstances is really a positive, after all), is that the 1100 bus (for which I have to leave at 1020) will get me downtown at 1120ish. Depending on the vagaries of the buses, that might well mean 3+ hours of travel time. I believe I may have consumed too much caffeine yesterday. 

Am receiving each day in Holy Week from the good people at the Fundacja inCanto in Kraków an email enclosing a song or chant proposed as a meditation on the day's Gospel. I don't see how to share this in any way except to suggest that one go to their website and sign up. I can forward these to anyone who is interested. 

Ante Vesperas. Am back half an hour ago from Mass downtown and the shopping. I ended up taking a cab from here (the driver, as it happens, is a fellow parishioner) and returning on the bus-- for which I only had to wait about twenty minutes-- and my own two sore (wrong shoes, tsk) feet. It has become a lovely afternoon, bright blue skies, sluggish huge clouds of black and purple and white, brilliant sunlight. Am feeling the lack of a nap after the Paris Mass. 

The titular Church of Balbina [the collecta] on that side of the lesser Aventine which rises above the spacious ruins of the Baths of Caracalla is already known to us. A little way off stands the basilica de fasciola [the statio], which a very old tradition connects with St Peter, at the time when he sought, by leaving Rome, to escape from persecution. Near the first milestone on the Via Appia, the Apostle stopped to replace the fasciola, bandage which covered the wound in his leg caused by the fetters that he had worn in prison. At that moment, Christ himself appeared to him as he was going towards Rome. Domine, quo vadis? St Peter inquired of his divine Master. Eo Romam iterum crudfigi, answered our Lord. The vision passed, and Peter understood from these words that it was in the person of his first Vicar that Christ was to be put to death in Rome, so, obedient to the implied command, he returned in all haste to the city. We do not know, given the documents we now possess, what may have been the foundation for this pleasing legend, but it is certainly of very great antiquity, and it gathers support from the very name, de fasciola, given to the church as far back as the beginning of the 4th century. Under the altar rest the bodies of the martyrs Nereus, Achilleus and Domitilla, which were first transferred thither from the neighbouring cemetery of Domitilla on the Via Ardeatina, when it fell into disuse and neglect after the time of Paul I (757-67). Still later, the whole region of the Via Appia, being then deserted on account of the malaria, the church of the fasciola also fell into ruin, hence the bodies of its martyrs were conveyed to the diaconal Church of St Adrian in the Forum. When towards the end of the sixteenth century Cardinal Baronius became titular Cardinal of the basilica de fasciola, he caused the mosaics of the triumphal arch erected in the time of Leo III (795-816) to be restored, and he again brought back from St Adrian to his own titular church the bodies of SS Nereus, Achilleus and Domitilla, raising above their tomb an altar of cosmato work which had stood originally in the Basilica of St Paul on the Via Ostiensis. Our present Missal assigns today’s station to the Church of St Praxedes, an arrangement which dates from the end of the Middle Ages, when the title de fasciola was completely abandoned. The titulus Praxedis, on the Esquiline, appears for the first time in an inscription of the year 491, recording one of its priests, which was discovered in the cemetery of Hippolytus, on the Via Tiburtina. Paschal I (817-24), who was titular priest of this church, rebuilt it from the foundations, moving it, however, a little from its original site, and rendered it more venerable by bringing thither a great number of bodies of martyrs who had been buried in the now abandoned extramural cemeteries. Besides the mosaics of the apse, those of the oratory of San Zeno are very important, where down to 1699 this martyred priest rested by the side of his brother Valentinus. An ancient representation of the Blessed Virgin is venerated here, as also a column of reddish jasper brought to Rome from Jerusalem in 1223, which tradition affirms to be the one to which our divine Redeemer was bound during his flagellation. Under the high altar lies the body of St Praxedes, to whom the basilica is dedicated, and in a crypt under the sanctuary are all the numerous bodies of martyrs removed by Paschal I from the cemeteries outside Rome; so that this basilica, by reason of its antiquity, its artistic monuments, and the sacred relics which it contains, may well be considered as one of the most famous sanctuaries of Christian Rome. 

The Introit is taken from Psalm 34, which also in the Greek Liturgy is connected with the Passion of Christ: 'Judge thou, O Lord, them that wrong me; overthrow them that fight against me: take hold of arms and shield, and rise up to help me, O Lord, the strength of my salvation. Bring out the sword, and shut up the way against them that persecute me: say to my soul, I am thy salvation'. Christ, overwhelmed by the multitude and by the violence of his adversaries-- those sinners whose guilt he, the immaculate Lamb of God, had in his compassion taken upon himself-- not only calls upon his Father, protesting his own innocence, but also implores him to curb the bold attacks of Satan against the human race, and more especially against his mystical body, the Church. The Father hears the prayer of his Son, and comes to his assistance by crushing the head of the serpent beneath the weight of the cross and raising him up from death to a new life impassible and glorious. 

The Collect is full of the sadness suggested by this holy season: 'Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God, that we who fail through our infirmity in so many difficulties, may be relieved by the Passion of thy Son interceding for us'. As Jesus offered himself voluntarily for us to his Father upon the cross, so in heaven he renews this sacrifice on our behalf each time that we desire it, and invoke to that end the merits of his Passion. The Lesson is derived from Isaias (1,5-10), in which the prophet represents Christ as offering himself to his Father in confutation of those who were persecuting him, and, by his exact and detailed description of the sufferings of our Lord so many centuries before they actually occurred, Isaias has well deserved the title of 'Proto-evangelist' which has been attributed to him. Christ, says the prophet, has delivered his body to the scourgers, his cheeks to those that smote them, and his face to those that spat upon him. But the Just One, assailed by the calumny of his enemies, has naught with which to reproach himself; so, bereft of all other help, he calls upon him who is the strength of the weak and the desolate, and who, when invoked by them in the hour of their need, causes all oppressors to tremble-- namely, God. If we may be allowed in a work such as this, which treats of sacred subjects, to refer to a writer of romance, we would beg those among our readers who are familiar with the masterpiece of Manzoni to recall the impression produced on the mind of Innominato when his helpless victim on the night of her capture called on the holy name of God. Isaias ends with these solemn words: 'He that hath walked in darkness and hath no light, let him hope in the name of the Lord and lean upon his God'. To lean upon God is to trust in his love; the whole spiritual life consists in this, and blessed is he who, understanding it, abandons himself without reserve entirely to God. 

The Gradual comes from the same psalm as the Introit, and calls upon God to come to the help of his Christ. It is not to be thought, because God did not deliver Jesus from the death of the cross, that therefore his many prayers were unanswered. On the contrary, they showed, as those in the Garden of Olives, a natural shrinking from suffering, and thus proved the reality of his human nature. Moreover, these same entreaties were expressly subordinated to the will of his Father, who had made the sacrifice of his only-begotten Son the condition of the redemption of mankind. Moreover, these prayers concerned also the mystical body of the Saviour i.e. the faithful, whom Jesus desired above all things to rescue from the jaws of hell. The prayer of the Redeemer was favourably received by his Father by reason of the dignity of the suppliant, as the Apostle so well explains. His desires were fully granted, for the wisdom of God caused the calumnies and persecutions of the Synagogue to redound to the greater glory of Christ in the day of his final victory and triumph. There are now only six more days before the “ Pasch ”; therefore the Church appoints for the Gospel lesson of today the account from St John (12,1-9) of the supper in the house of Lazarus, when Jesus came to Bethania six days before Easter. We should note that the Jews of Jerusalem celebrated this feast on the 15th of Nisan i.e. on the day following the death of our Lord, who, by partaking of the paschal supper on the evening of Thursday, the 13th of Nisan, anticipated by twenty-four hours the official ceremony of eating the lamb. It is probable that this anticipation, influenced in this case by the nearness of his death, was customary among the Galileans in order to avoid the dangerous crush of people in the Temple at the time when the paschal lamb was killed. It is well known that the men of Galilee used to go up fully armed to the paschal feast at Jerusalem, so for this reason the civil authorities did all they could to prevent occasions for quarrelling between Galileans and Jews. During the supper, Mary Magdalen repeated the act of reverence which she had performed on the day of her conversion, and anointed the feet of Jesus with perfumes. Our Saviour, his mind full of the thought of his coming death, gave to this sign of veneration a significance in keeping therewith, accepting it as a loving action forestalling the embalming of his body. The more his heart was saddened by the baseness of his enemies, so much the more did he show himself affected by the smallest token of devotion on the part of his friends. Jesus praises this disinterested affection, which was not withheld even by the excuse of benefiting the poor. 'The poor you have always with you, but me you have not always'. By this he teaches us to profit by the favourable occasions that grace offers us, for we shall have plenty of time in which to give to human affairs that attention which they rightly claim. When Jesus grants us some moments of intimate union with himself, let us ignore for a while our exterior occupations, let us forget ourselves and think of him alone. 'The poor you have always with you'. This is one of the most consoling promises of Christ, in which he commits to his Church a very precious treasure. As Jesus on leaving this earth to return to his Father gives himself to be with us in the Blessed Sacrament, so, too, he wishes to remain always present among us in the person of his poor. 

The Offertory is from Psalm 142. In it the Just One begs for deliverance from the snares of his enemies, but he does not look for this deliverance in human aid, as do so many souls when in trouble, who by seeking creature consolation and relief lose all the spiritual benefits which pain and grief bring to the Christian sufferer. The true Christian turns to God alone in the hour of trial and temptation, and prays that by his interior light he will guide him to the accomplishment of his holy will. The Secret is the same as that of the First Sunday in Advent, in which we ask that the Sacrament may so cleanse us by its power, that we may the more worthily celebrate suum principium-- i.e. the paschal feast-- at which the first Eucharist was instituted. 

The Communion is taken from Psalm 34, and carries on the same idea which dominates the liturgy at this season. The Saviour, oppressed by the attacks of his enemies, calls upon his Father to bear witness to his innocence in face of the calumnies which assail him. 'Let them blush and be ashamed together, who rejoice at my evils'-- these words may be applied to the evil one and his followers, the Jews, who, standing by the cross, mocked at him and derided him-- 'let them be clothed with shame and fear who speak malignant things against me'. In the Post-Communion we beseech almighty God to grant us that fervour and spiritual hunger which will cause us to taste the inner sweetness of Communion and to experience its fruition. For, as bodily nourishment produces greater effect according to the health and vigour of the person who receives it, so the Blessed Sacrament produces greater fruit in those souls who come full of love and fervour to partake of it. This shows us how carefully we should prepare ourselves to receive the holy Sacraments. 

In the Oratio super populum we ask God to help us that we may soon celebrate with fervent faith and loving hearts the commemoration of the greatest of all his mercies, that one by which he has deigned to 'restore' us, to make us live again through the shedding of his precious blood. The Passion of Jesus is ever being renewed throughout the history of the Church, therefore it is necessary that there should always be loving souls who, by the perfume of their devotion, should make atonement to the divine Master for all the wrongs caused by his enemies. Happy are those who can make reparation in this manner, and the need for them is greater than ever in these days when disbelief and ungodliness are shaking all society to its foundations. The precious and sweet-smelling ointment which these souls pour out at the feet of Jesus are their tears and their holy lives; these, by the power of good example, fill the Church of Christ with sweetness. The world condemns such contemplative lives as wasted and useless, and, like Judas, casts a doubt on the value of their sacrifice; but Jesus takes up their defence, and shows clearly that without doing injustice to more active and public service, these self-denying souls, devoted to prayer and penance, are indeed necessary to his Church. 

It is also the feast of the Blessed Bertholdus (13th century), of the Blessed John (16th century), and of the Blessed Agnes (18th century).

V. Et álibi aliórum plurimórum sanctórum Mártyrum et Confessórum, atque sanctárum Vírginum. R. Deo grátias.