Saturday, April 11, 2009

What did all those liturgical changes mean during Lent?

Pruned, dying, and finally dead upon the threshold of the tomb
All during Lent we were being stripped down and put to a slow death. I speak liturgically, of course. But as Catholics our spiritual lives ought to reflect our liturgical lives and Holy Church’s liturgical seasons.

We were liturgically eviscerated through Lent and Passiontide, Holy Week.

Now, Holy Church has experienced liturgical death.

In the Extraordinary Form, so important for our self-understanding as Catholics, the Alleluia was lost with the pre-Lenten Sundays.

Instrumental music and flowers went on Ash Wednesday.

On 1st Passion Sunday we were deprived of statues and images when they are draped in purple. In the older form of Mass the “Iudica” psalm in the prayers at the foot of the altar and the Gloria Patri at the end of certain prayers was no longer said.

The pruning cuts more deeply as we entered the Triduum.

After the sudden Gloria during the Mass on Holy Thursday bells were replaced with wooden noise makers.

The Blessed Sacrament was removed from the main altar.

The altar was stripped, left bare and exposed.

Holy Water, water being so essential to life, is removed.

On Good Friday, there is no Mass. First no water … now no food.

On Saturday, aside from somber Tenebrae – for we do not cease to pray when we are being emptied out – there is not even a liturgical action, no liturgical sound. At Tenebrae all lights but for a single candle are snuffed out.

It dies before night falls.

By the time we come to Saturday evening and the setting of the sun – increasing darkness until the buried sun no longer gives any illumination to the sky, we will be deprived of light itself.

It is liturgical night in the fullest sense.

As night truly falls in the physical realm, Holy Church is motionless, soundless, bereft of sound, motion, warmth, light itself.

We are in our liturgical tomb.

Holy Church is liturgically dead.


The Vigil is to be celebrated after night has fallen.


In the darkness a single spark will be struck from flint.

It’s bright glint will be startling in the darkness and silence.


The spark will spread into flames, casting greater and greater illumination as they flicker and wave, as they breathe air and consume the food of its fuel. The flames will spread through the whole Church. The glorious Christ Candle will take its place within the sacred space of the church building’ holy of holies, the sanctuary.

Holy Church springs to life again at the Vigil of Easter.

The dead rise.

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