Saturday, February 25, 2006

Quinquagesima Sunday

Station at St Peter

This solemn assemby at the confessio of the Vatican brings to a close the Triduum in preparation for the great solemnity of the coming fast. Having assured ourselves of the patronage of St Lawrence, St Paul, and St Peter, we shall be ready with full confidence to commence next Sunday at the Lateran Basilica the holy cycle of penance. In imitation of the Greeks, all religius communities and the more devout amongst the laity began, in early times, to abstain from meat from this week onwards. The Church has adopted this use to a certain extent by begining Lent on the following Feria IV (Ash Wednesday).

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[Today's] Gospel (Luke xviii: 31-43} gives us the definite announcement of the approaching Sacrifice. Our Lord is proceeding towards the city whose sad prerogative it was to be the place where the Prophets should be slain -- Non capit prophetam perire extra Ierusalem -- and when Peter in his impetuous affection tries to restrain the Redeemer from exposing himself to such a danger, our Lord repulses him, and, addressing him as Satan, assures him that he who despies the cross has no knolwedge of things divine. The miracle of the blind man of Jericho confirms the wavering faith of the disciples, showing them that though the human nature of Christ was to be voluntarily surrendered to the violence of his enemies, yet his divine nature which worked all these wonders would raise his human body again after three days, incorrupt and glorious.

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The mystery of the cross is so difficult for the mind of man to understand that even the Apostles, who had studied for three years in the school of Christ, had not yet penetrated it. They did not uderstand it now as they journeyed to Jerusalem, not yet on the evening of the paschal feast, at which they were consecrated the Pontiffs of the New Testament. One short hour later, omnes, relicto eo, fugerunt, leaving Jesus to go up to Calvary alone. How necessary, then, is it for us to meditate upon Christ crucified, lest we should fail in a matter of the highest moment, towards which the whole of our spiritual life should be directed -- that is, the mystery of expiation through suffering.

The Gregorian antiphonary contains the proper chants only of the Masses of Wednesday and Friday of Quinquagesima, whilst on the Thursday and Saturday, even to this day, the melodies belonging to other Masses are repeated. This anomaly is, perhaps, to be accounted for by the fact that the weekday staions of Ferias IV [Wednesday] and VI [Saturday] were observed even as early as the second century in Africa and in Rome. The anticipated Lenten fasts of the last four days of Quinquagesima week could easily be added to the two stational fasts without greatly disturbing the order of the antiphonary. Lent had its clearly established daily stations, but for these supplementary and, at first, merely voluntary fasts the two traditional Masses, which even from the time of the Apostles had sanctified the weekly fast on each Wednesday and Friday throughout the year, might well suffice.

-Schuster's Liber Sacramentorum