Week 284

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Reading I
Is 43:16-21
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Reading II
Phil 3:8-14
Jn 8:1-11

Once again, I missed the railroad train, so I drove about an hour to a parish in the hometown of a famous singer and actor. The grey stone church bears a cornerstone of 1888, so it has been around a while. The inside is currently undergoing a paint and repair job, so the smell of fresh paint was in the air. This seems to be the most significant change to the church in over 100 years except for the relocation of the square metal tabernacle to the right side altar and the placement of what may be the original altar in a freestanding position. The main altar, of green marble on a tapered pedestal, match the side altars, which leads me to believe that they may be original. If the domed sanctuary had a reredo, it was removed. Still, the white marble altar rail survives, probably minus the sanctuary gates that almost certainly were a part of the original structure. A traditional wooden crucifix hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary over the celebrant's chair. The ambo (at the left) and cantor's lectern (at the right) are virtually identical as far as I could tell and are very simple, on posts.

The wooden pews are split into two sections. Racks hold copies of OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue. When I arrived, I gasped when I saw that all the kneelers were gone, but I quickly regained my composure when I inhaled the fresh paint again and realized that they probably had been removed only temporarily to be refinished and reupholstered (or perhaps replaced altogether with lighter metal models). Traditional arched stained-glass windows depict various saints and biblical scenes. A large choir loft extends over the last several rows and still is home to the organ. Several narrow columns fall into the pews and are painted to match the yellow-green marble on the lower part of the walls.

The 9:30 AM Mass did not begin until about 9:40 AM; no announcement was made or explanation given. Maybe they do it that way all the time at this parish, but if the start will be delayed, I would like to know why and about how long it will be. The opening hymn was "Amazing Grace." We sang one verse; the priest simply emerged from the sacristy next to the sanctuary and took his place. The Mass had no servers. After the greeting, the priest made an ad-libbed prayer of thanks that everyone had arrived and that God had been good to us. Then he led us in the Confiteor and the opening prayer.

The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading (all came from Year C; apparently the catechumens were at a different Mass). He also recited the responsorial psalm of the day. After he gave the second reading, the cantor went to the lectern and led the verse before the Gospel with its Lenten acclamation, "Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory." The priest proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo and then moved to the space between the altar rails to give his homily.

First we were given an explanation of the progress of the painting and repairs, including the Greek painter's love of gold and the fact that all the statues except for two were removed until Easter. He did not make clear whether the statues were removed every year or merely to keep them from being damaged during the painting (this explained the empty niches above the side altars; the parish is not a stronghold of iconoclasts). This lasted about five minutes or more. He then spoke about the Gospel, giving us some of the background about why the question put to Jesus was really a trap (stone the woman, offend the Romans and what about all that mercy-- or let her go and disobey the Mosaic law) and speculating about what Jesus was writing in the sand (the sins of the scribes and Pharisees, perhaps). He also explained how the scribes and Pharisees had let hatred take control of them and shared a slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous: "Hate is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person."

We recited the Creed, and then the reader led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful, notable for a prayer for "the person among us today who is most in need of our prayers." A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "We Remember."

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In Oxon Hill, Maryland, Mass is offered at St. Columba Church on Livingston Road. Wherever in the world you are, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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Same Sunday in 2000
Same Sunday in 1999


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