N030 – Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday

Historically, quite a number of different things were done this day. Not all of these were done everywhere or every year; the most important were:

  • The institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper was sacramentally commemorated.
  • Catechumens were given their final preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil.
  • Penitents who had completed all of their penance were reconciled to the Church.
  • The oils necessary for Baptism (The Oil of Catechumens and Sacred Chrism) as well as the Oil of the Sick were consecrated.
  • Our Lord’s example of humility at the Last Supper by washing the Apostles’ feet was commemorated. It was very commonly extended to the poor and joined with gifts of material support to them. Still today in the United Kingdom on this day Her Majesty gives the Royal Maundy to various poor subjects.
  • Sufficient of the consecrated Elements for tomorrow were removed to a location away from the main altar of the church.
  • The Altars were entirely stripped and washed, a commemoration of the burial of Our Lord as well as a dramatic emphasis
  • Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden and the disciples’ failure to “watch one hour” with Him is commemorated by a special watch before the reserved Sacrament.

Some of these activities were not done in every parish church. The blessing and consecration of the Holy Oils and Sacred Chrism is traditionally reserved to the Bishop of the Diocese or, in the case of the Sacred Chrism, sometimes to the Patriarch himself. In Rome a Mass for the Blessing and Consecration of the Holy Oils and Sacred Chrism was celebrated in the morning. Bishops of the suburbicarian dioceses and the priests in charge of various parishes would attend this liturgy and obtain the Oils and Chrism which they would need for the coming year.

The Washing of the Feet  or Maundy, as it is known, was frequently done as a completely separate service at a different time and location than the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is still the case in the United Kingdom where Her Majesty performs the service in person each year. This is known as the Royal Maundy.

The Royal Maundy is the only occasion on which the Her Majesty Queen visits others to make awards, as recipients of honours usually come to her.  The service has become the occasion of a royal pilgrimage to different parts of the country because Her Majesty has directed that the service not be held in London more often than once in ten years. Westminster Abbey was the site of the 2001 Royal Maundy, and again in 2011,

The Queen ceremonially distributes small silver coins known as “Maundy money” (legally, “the Queen’s Maundy money”) as alms to elderly recipients. The coins symbolic of the very much greater alms given yearly by Her Majesty. They are legal tender but do not circulate because of their silver content and numismatic value. A small sum of ordinary money is also given in lieu of gifts of clothing and food that the sovereign once bestowed on Maundy recipients.Today the recipients are pensioners, chosen on an interdenominational basis from various Christian churches for their service to their churches and communities. For 2012, in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, recipients were selected from all 44 dioceses in the United Kingdom for the service at York Minster.

Following very ancient custom of both East and West, no Mass is celebrated until the completion of the Easter Vigil. The Church is in profound grief and sorrow. Jesus will now obediently allow Himself to be captured, tried, mocked, scourged and crucified for our Sins. Therefore at the end of this Mass, the Holy Sacrament is solemnly removed from the altar and carried in procession to a separate Altar of Repose. At this altar vigil is kept until the Sacrament is brought back to the main altar in the Good Friday liturgy.

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T008 – Introduction to the Psalms, Part V.

How Psalms are used in the Liturgy

Two psalms are used extensively in the liturgy of Holy Week. This provides an opportunity to look at them in depth and gain a better understanding of how the psalms are used in the liturgy.

Psalm 35 is used for the Introit, Gradual, & Communion on Monday of Holy Week and as the Gradual on Tuesday of Holy Week.

Psalm 102 is used for the Introit, Tract after the 2nd lesson (Hebrews), Offertory, & Communion on Wednesday of Holy Week.

The text of the Psalms for this talk is that as given in the King James Version. Click here to download a PDF file of Psalms 35 & 102 to better understand and follow this talk.

N029 – Wednesday of Holy Week

Wednesday of Holy Week

            There are several features of the liturgy today worthy of comment; of these I’ve selected two to discuss here. The first is the Introit which, like yesterday, introduces a major theme for the remainder of Holy Week:

At the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth: for that the Lord became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross: wherefore Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2)

Added to the theme that our redemption comes through suffering and pain is the theme of the greatness of Christ’s power which is so vividly stated here. These two Introits will appear over and over again in the various liturgies of Holy Week. They indicate a similarity between Adam and Christ, the new Adam. Adam owed God obedience and gave it not; Christ while equal to the Father nonetheless voluntarily took on our condition, made dismal by sin. Then, in a fully free act, He offered to the Father that perfect obedience which is shown in His death on the Cross.

The other feature worthy of special note is that there are two lessons before the Gospel at this Mass. The first is from Isaiah 62:11 – 63:7. In it the prophet describes the work and suffering which will go into the salvation of God’s people. From earliest Christian days, the words of Isaiah here have been understood to apply to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, as well as to the earlier King of whom they were originally spoken. The second lesson is from the New Testament and comes from Hebrews 9:16-28. It clearly shows that Christ is the Sacrifice of the New Covenant. He fulfills in realty that which the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament could only point to.

The Passion Gospel for this liturgy is from Luke 22:39-71 and contains the details of Christ’s Agony in the garden before His arrest. It continues through until the completion of Christ’s trial before the council of the “elders, chief priests and scribes.” This body constituted the most important and powerful authority of the Jewish people, under, of course, the Roman suzerainty. This group had no longer the power of carrying out a sentence of death; it had been reserved by Roman law to the Imperial governor.

At a suitable time, after Vespers has been celebrated, Tenebrae of Holy Wednesday is celebrated. This is actually the anticipated Matins and Lauds of tomorrow, Maundy Thursday.

Click here to download a PDF of the complete text of this Note, which includes detailed information about Tenebrae of this day.


N028 – Tuesday of Holy Week

Tuesday of Holy Week

On this day the Introit of the Mass comes from St. Paul:

But it behoveth us to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: in whom is our salvation, our life and resurrection: by whom we are saved and set free. (Galatians 6).

This states a major essential theme of Holy Week: our redemption comes only through the suffering of Christ, Who is Himself without sin. The words of this Introit will appear frequently during the remainder of Holy Week. The Cross now becomes a major focus of our worship in these days.

The first lesson today is, as yesterday, from the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 50:5-11). Once again Isaiah uses the image of the suffering servant to show us to what lengths our God will go in order to redeem us from death and hell.

5 The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed….

The Gospel today is from Mark 15, and is the continuation of his account of the Passion of our Lord.  The Cross becomes a major focus of our worship in these days.

Click here to download a PDF file of the complete text of this Note.

At the Divine Office

The Old Testament Lesson at Matins is: Hosea 14.

Click here to download a PDF file of the Old Testament lessons for Matins of this week.

N027 – Monday of Holy Week

Monday of Holy Week

            Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week each have a particular Mass prescribed, with different lessons and minor propers each day.  Unusually, each day the first lesson is not from an Epistle (or any other New Testament source) but rather is from the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah. This is because from the earliest days, the Church has understood that in his preaching Isaiah was inspired to prefigure the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Gospel for today is the Passion Gospel of St. Mark, chapter 14. We hear immediately of the plotting to bring about the judicial murder of Jesus and then St. Mark tells us of the loving care of the woman who had the alabaster jar of beautifully scented ointment. She broke it open and poured it on Christ’s head and feet. This action of Mary was not only a gracious and loving gesture but also was prophetic and signified that He Who was anointed was the very Mediator between God and man.

Click here to download a PDF file with the full text of this Note.

At the Divine Office

The Old Testament Lesson at Matins is: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12.

Click here to download a PDF file of the Old Testament lessons.

N026 – Introduction to Holy Week and Palm Sunday

The Liturgy of the Great and Holy Week

Introduction & Palm Sunday

            We are about to enter into the celebration of the most important week of the Christian year.  From the very beginning of the Church, the Christians in Palestine commemorated the events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection by visiting the places where these events occurred. As the liturgical services of the Church developed over time, these visits were marked with special services which illuminated and interpreted the events which had occurred at these locations. As time when on and the Church expanded geographically, Christians outside of the Holy Land (some from as far away as England) actually made pilgrimages to the Holy Land where they visited the actual places of these saving events and participated in the services which the Church celebrated at these places. Returning pilgrims brought back accounts of these services and local churches started celebrating them as part of their Lent and Easter liturgy. Liturgical scholars point out that some of the services of Holy Week are the oldest ones we have record of.

Christian liturgical services include the recalling and recounting of historical events as well as reenacting them with a greater or less degree of solemnity, however, we are not merely “reenactors.” In liturgical services we here and now sacramentally and mystically participate in the actual events commemorated. Because we have been incorporated into Christ’s Body by our Baptism and Chrismation, He in us and we in Him join in the very saving actions of His Passion, Death and Resurrection. This is far, far more than a mere “reenacting” of a historical event; we are part of the event itself, even though as composite creatures of body and soul it we seem to experience the events as recalling of the past. We participate in Christ’s Passion in a real, profound and sacramental way at every liturgical service. However, since we are composite creatures of body and soul united in our human person, we exist in time and space. Thus our participation must occur over time and is repeated so that as we grow and develop year by year, our participation is commensurate with our spiritual growth. To put it simply, a child and an adult both worship God, but each in a way that is compatible with their theosis at that point in their lives. This is why we repeat these services day by day and year by year. It is this sacramental and mystical participation in Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection which is brought about by the Church’s celebration of the liturgy. This is what we do in Holy Week.

Palm Sunday

The Sunday Next Before Easter

            This service begins our observance of Holy Week by commemorating the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem a few days before His Passion. As we see from the Scripture lessons and the various minor propers, there are two themes which are to be held in counterpoint today:

  • Christ is our triumphant King, the long-awaited Messiah come in fulfillment of prophecy Who will bring freedom and victory to His people.
  • In the heart of those very people whom Christ comes to save are those who reject Him because His mission does not comport with their flawed understanding of it. These plot actively to bring Him down in disgrace.

Accordingly, there are two distinct parts to this service: the Blessing of Palms and Procession followed by the Mass of the Sunday, which includes the first of the four Passion Gospels. At the Blessing of the palms, several antiphons and Psalms 24 and 47 are chanted while the Palms are distributed. Then the Gospel of the Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9) is chanted by the deacon.

In the procession  which follows  we sing All Glory, Laud and Honour (The Hymnal, 1940, Hymn 62). This component of today’s liturgy is unique and is critical in our understanding of what it is that we are doing sacramentally.

Then after the procession is ended, the mood changes from joyful exaltation to sorrow. Red vestments are put aside for violet ones and the Mass begins. Psalm 22 furnishes the Introit (vv. 19-21) and the Tract (whole psalm) between the Epistle and the Passion Gospel.  Immediately following the Tract we will hear the Passion in which Christ will – for our benefit – pray this psalm once again.

At the time of the Gospel  the Passion according to St Matthew is proclaimed.  We must remember that sacramentally we stand at the foot of Jesus’ Cross, watching Him die for us.

Click here to download a PDF file of the complete Notes for this episode.

N025 – Passiontide Weekdays

We are now in Passiontide, moving towards Holy Week. This is a short Note to get us through from Monday of Passion Week (today) until Palm Sunday (next Sunday). There will be a series of lengthier Notes for each day of Holy Week. This Note has the very important texts of the Hymns: Vexilla Regis prodeunt (The Standard of the King goes forth) and Lustris sex qui iam peractis (Thirty years among us dwelling) which are used at Vespers and Matins during this week and the next. In addition, the appropriate Magnificat and Benedictus antiphons are also provided.

Click here to see the complete Note.


Click here to download a PDF file of the complete Note


N024 – 5th Sunday of Lent

5th Sunday in Lent

Passion Sunday

The Collect: We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people: that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son, etc.

The Introit. Psalm 43:1-2 (v 23-26) (Judica me) Give sentence with me, O God, and defend my cause against the ungodly people:  O deliver me from the deceitful and wicked man: for thou art the God of my strength. Ps. 43:3. O send out thy light and thy truth, that they may lead me: and bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling.(v 1) I was glad when they said unto me:I

The Epistle: Hebrews 9:11-15 Christ is the new and permanent High Priest made so by His blood offered for our eternal redemption. Therefore, He is the Mediator of the new testament so that by His death we may all receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Gradual Ps. 143:9,10. Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: teach me to do the thing that pleaseth thee. Ps 18:49 It is the Lord that delivereth me from my cruel enemies, and setteth me up above mine adversaries: thou shalt rid me from the wicked man.

Tract. Ps. 129:1-4.

  1. Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up * may Israel now say.
  2. Yea, many a time have they vexed me from my youth up * but they have not prevailed against me.
  3. The plowers plowed upon my back * and made long furrows.
  4. But the righteous Lord * hath hewn the snares of the ungodly in pieces.

The Gospel. St. John 8:46-59 Jesus answers the charge that He is a Samaritan and hath a devil by reference to His miracles. The Jews claim that He cannot have seen Abraham because He is not yet even 50 years old.  Then Jesus proclaims to them: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was I am”thereby stating that He is Very God.

Offertory. Ps. 119 I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: O do well unto thy servant that I may live and keep thy word: quicken thou me, O Lord, according to thy word.

Communion. I Cor. 11:24-25. This is my Body, which is given for you: this cup is the new testament in my Blood, saith the Lord: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

At the Divine Office

            The Old Testament lessons in the Daily Office for the week to come are set out below:

  Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Matins Isaiah 1:10-20 Exodus 3:1-15 Exodus 4:10-31 Exodus 5:1-6:1 Exodus 11:1-8 Exodus 12:21-28 Exodus 12:29-42
Vespers Jereimiah14:7-21 Jeremiah 20:7-13 Jeremiah 22:10-23 Jeremiah 28:1-17 Jeremiah 30:12-24 Jeremiah 32:36-42 Jeremiah 33:1-16

 Benedictus and Magnificat Antiphons

At 1st  Vespers: I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

At Matins: Jesus said unto the multitude of the Jews, and to the chief priests: He that is of God heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of not, because ye are not of God.

At 2nd Vespers: Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad.

Click here to download a PDF file of these Episode Notes

Click here to download a PDF file of the Transcript of this talk.

T007 – Introduction to the Psalms, Part IV

T007 – Introduction to the Psalms, Part IV

Episode Notes

Theme:  The Psalms as a tool for our theosis, our personal growth in holiness, continued .

  1. The language of the Psalms – Prayers and Curses
    • The entire spectrum of human needs, moods, and passions are found in the Psalms
    • Controlled prayer (Psalm 137:1-6) is followed by passion for revenge (vv.7-9).
    • Nevertheless, the psalms longs for Jerusalem – Peace, security, union with God while simultaneously crying out against personal experience of the evils which are inflicted on the disadvantaged, displaced, weak, ignorant, and otherwise vulnerable.
  2. Such language calls out for immediate action. The Psalmist sees that the world is in crisis. The violent imagery of these psalms indicates just how deeply the psalmist longs for a just and proper order of things and is violently repelled by injustice and falsehood.
  3. Consider Psalm 58 .
    • Note the clearly vengeful terms used.
    • Poet desires the destruction of unfair rulers, indeed, the annihilation of enemies
    • “The curses in the Bible do not represent uncontrolled outbursts of human emotion, nor are they the abuse of a victim on the rampage. Given their liturgical, communal setting, they are the modulated, if vitriolic, articulation of the desire for the annihilation of evil forces against God’s people.” (Ibid).
    • It is never wrong to hate evil and wish for its final and complete defeat and annihilation.

(1) Prophetic curses, such as found in Amos 1-2, are part of the liturgical and prophetic tradition of the Jews.

(2) Furthermore, we must never forget that the Psalms are not just any set of poems. They are inspired by God.

(3) God intends the words chosen by the psalmist when he writes the psalms and, therefore, we must learn from this. “Both violent and pacific expressions are the Word of God; both have a home in the Bible. With these difficult prayers, [we are able to appeal to] God to attend to even the crudest level of human nature”

  1. God, Who knows human nature and human needs better than we ourselves do, has given us these psalms so that we will be able to bring to Him every aspect of ourselves, particularly those aspects which are in most need of reformation, change and healing. For never, I say again, never forget that the Psalmist knew well to Whom he was addressing the Psalm!
  2. As a practical example, let us consider Psalm 51, which has been the great penitential psalm of the Church in both Testaments. It is interesting to note, by the way, that the psalms which are placed close to it in the psalter include several psalms which use rather strong language regarding evil and those who perpetrate evil.

Click here to download a PDF file of these Episode Notes.

N023 – Wednesday of the 4th Week of Lent

This is an extra talk on this important week of Lent for registered subscribers to this site.

I must apologize for the audio quality of this talk. I have edited it as much as I can, but it appears that I may have some problem in my microphone – computer hardware. The downloadable PDF file is not affected by this, however.

Click here to download a PDF file of this talk