Week 23

Passion Sunday

This week, we visit the sister parish of last week's parish. The building probably dates from the 1940's or 1950's; it is a simple rectangle with a domed sanctuary. The ceiling and upper parts of the walls are white with heavy mouldings; the lower parts of the walls are dark wood, matching much of the trim. One confessional on the right has been removed to make room for a small, concrete baptismal font. The altar rail has been removed, and the tabernacle is now found in the former side altar on the left. The modest but dignified ambo is in the older location on the left ahead of the altar. A larger-than-life traditional crucifix hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary; today, it was draped with a velvet cloth that covered the arms and waist of the figure of Jesus in kind of a W-pattern. Two sets of wooden pews are separated by a center aisle and flanked by side aisles. The pews did not have book racks but only small holders for stewardship envelopes; the OCP missalettes were stacked at the ends of the pews.

I arrived at 7:20 AM for the 7:30 AM Mass. I took a single strand of palm from as I entered, but apparently that was judged to be insufficient, because, as I prayed before Mass, kneeling with my eyes closed, an usher interrupted me to offer me more palm, even though I had left my strand in plain sight on the pew behind me. The Mass began with the priest, a server, readers, and lay ministers processing down the center aisle and stopping in front of the sanctuary to read the opening prayers of the Passion Sunday liturgy, including the blessing of the palms. Then the priest went to the ambo to read the Gospel account of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. (In my own parish, everything to this point in the Passion Sunday liturgy is normally conducted from the rear of the church.) The penitential rite followed along with the normal opening prayer. The readings were from the new Lectionary, which now matches that in the OCP missalettes. The psalm was recited, as this Mass had no music or cantor. However, the priest sung the "Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory" invocation and verse before the Gospel.

Before the Passion was read, the priest suggested that those who are aged, ill, or infirm could sit, and since he was rather old himself, he said that he would stand only while reading Jesus' parts. He then invited everyone else to stand. (In contrast, in my own parish, for the last several years, we have all been instructed to sit during the Passion.) The reading of the Passion was fairly straightforward, although I've grown accustomed to the old Lectionary, and it was like a new pair of shoes that aren't fully comfortable just yet. Perhaps the most noteworthy change in Matthew's account of the Passion is the rendering, "Let him be crucified" (I believe) as opposed to, "Crucify him!" That seems to tone it down ever so slightly. My sister and mother always hated it the old way; maybe they weren't alone. One reader took the part of narrator and another took the other parts of single speakers, while the congregation took the parts of groups of speakers. (We were not told to do so but we weren't told otherwise, either.)

The priest, standing behind the altar rather than the ambo, gave a short homily in which he said he was humbled by Jesus' death for us. He also suggested that we should make an effort to attend the liturgies of Holy Week. Following the Creed, the Prayer of the Faithful was offered with the response, "Hosanna in the Highest!" After the usual types of petitions offered by the reader, the priest added about half a dozen of his own, obviously ad-libbed. After the end of the Prayer of the Faithful, a collection was taken with long-handled baskets, but the priest continued to pontificate about the military action in Kosovo, praying that our leaders would "be able to read history and see that they are making the same kinds of mistakes they've made in the past" or something like that. I'm not sure that was appropriate.

The second Eucharistic Prayer was used. Again, as this Mass had no music, everything was recited. After the Agnus Dei, one of the three lay ministers of Holy Communion retrieved a ciborium from the tabernacle (and later returned it). I think somewhere along the way, an additional server appeared; I thought the Mass had opened with only one, but I could be mistaken. One small point that I don't think I've ever seen is that the two servers received from the cup; in my experience, servers never receive from the cup (like most children). Two stations were located in the center aisle, with the cup offered to the sides.

After Communion, the priest suggested that we ponder the great mystery of the Real Presence of Jesus within us, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, now that we had received Him. He then led the reading of the Stewardship Prayer but deviated from the "approved" text (stuffed behind the clear plastic inside cover of the missalette), changing all the cases of "me" and "mine" to "us" and "our." The Stewardship people will probably apprehend him soon; in the bulletin at last week's parish was an announcement saying, "As part of the Stewardship program we were notified that we must indicate in our Bulletin the amount of Treasure we receive each Sunday in our weekly collections." I wish we took the Mass that seriously.

Several announcements followed, and then the Prayer After Communion was offered and the Solemn Blessing (four invocations) was given. The priest then led a verse of "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" as he and the servers, readers, and lay ministers left via the center aisle.

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