Tridentine Triduum

This past Holy Week was a first for me. I not only survived the taxing liturgies of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday’s Paschal Vigil), but I found myself thriving in the Tridentine Triduum.

Not only did the usual Tridentine expressions help me, but I found the differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms (EF) of the Holy Week liturgies subtle yet rejuvenating to my soul and devotion. Here are a few points:

—–1) The priest truly disappears. The ad orientem posture of his prayer, the demands the rubrics places on him, the centricity of Christ, really shows how the priest is another instrument of Jesus. He wears what the Church commands him to wear; moves as the Church commands him to move; chants, speaks and whispers as the Church commands; does everything as the Church commands: all through which Christ Himself commands! The human priest merely becomes part of the whole thing: chalice, corporal, candles, altar, priest, patens, bells, thurible, servers, etc. Just another instrument among the many. And the more he disappears, the more He, who is Lord, appears. What made me see this clearer was the several times the priest had to vest in different vestments, outfitted for the specific task at hand, with no opinion of his relevant, necessary or appropriate. He was a slave to the liturgy, a slave to Christ and His Church.img_0531

—–2) Tenebrae took three hours. Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Last Supper started at 7:00pm. Two hours later, Tenebrae began and lasted until midnight. I was in liturgy for five straight hours. This was the single longest liturgy of the Triduum! But it’s length was vital, because it helped me feel the exhaustion that Peter, James and John felt while they waited for Jesus in Gethsemane, while they struggled to stay with Him and keep prayer. And those who chanted never stopped until midnight! Here we were then, doing what the apostles had failed to do: keeping watch with Christ in His agony. We were atoning for all the times we and others had failed to stay with Jesus.

Yet, going into Tenebrae, I had no idea it would last that long (not sure how long they last elsewhere). But I found myself just thinking, “Why not? Why not go the distance? Why not spend this time as I would with my other friends, talking late into the night, into the tenebrae (darkness)?”

So my advice: if you get the chance next Holy Week to attend Tenebrae, do it. But get ready for some spiritual struggle. Bring a devotional book with you (I suggest any of Fulton Sheen’s), your prayer journal, and get ready to reap and weep.tenebrae-hearse

—–3) Finally, the Paschal Vigil on Holy Saturday: two hours of which was in pure candlelight. Usually, in Ordinary Form Masses on this night, candles get blown out and lights turned on way too soon. Ever since I was a kid, I always thought the darkness should linger longer. Truly, I felt myself deprived that I did not yet feel deprived of full lighting. It seemed the candles were all for show, and not for something more.

Yet at this Extraordinary Form Mass, the darkness endured. So much so that I started worrying my candle would not last the Mass! As the wax waned, and the flame flirted with my fingers, I started noticing how dark the church was. Others had already lost their candles to the shadows, and mine was next. The desperation started to set in: should I find another candle? Should I save mine? Should I use my cell phone’s flashlight? And as I thought, I realized I was experiencing the darkness of being without the Light of the world. I tried to rely on myself, but this light was only going to go out anyway. I needed Christ to be my light. I needed Him to come back from the dead. I was awaiting His Resurrection.

And when the lights of the grand church came on amidst bells, organ and choir, I welcomed it in my deprivation. The darkness encroaching on my eyes taught me to receive His Light into my soul, because I had been in the dark for so long….easter2bvigil2b20152b042

—–So, if anything here has sparked your curiosity, please consider trying a Tridentine Triduum next time around, and you may find yourself not merely surviving, but thriving.

*Note, none of the photos shared here are mine but belong to their respective owners.

My First Rorate Mass

This morning was my very first Rorate Caeli Mass (please click link for stunning photos), a unique votive Mass starting in the dark of night’s end and ending at dawn, presenting for us how we are to wait for the true Light of the world (the whole point of Advent).

RorateMass-1024x490

The entirety of the liturgy is in candlelight. The shadows of the saints adorn the vaulted ceilings and walls. The altar shimmers in the firelight. The pews and handmissals glow under the candles. Everyone has their own little censer of wax, wick and fire.

Yet the moment that moved me most was the very end, at the Last Gospel (John 1: 1-14), the same Gospel read at the end of each Tridentine Mass. But today, as I was listening to the priest read the holy words, as I was wandering lost in the Latin and in the silence, waiting in the darkness of daybreak, waiting with a church full of people, waiting with my dwindling candlestick succumbing to the dark, waiting… waiting to genuflect at the very moment THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH.

My knee hits the floor.Nativity by Rembrandt.jpg

And then I understood. God Himself came down from Heaven and hit the ground. He covered Himself in the dust of earth, clothed Himself in the mortality of man, smothered Himself in our fallen nature. Touchdown: the Lord touched the ground, touched Creation and began His reclamation. He wore our worn world, but adorned you and me with Himself, with Divinity. And the least we could do was genuflect when we remember He did all this to be with us (Emmanuel), and for us to be with Him.

The world waited for the moment THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH. And the girl the world waited for, and for her yes. The pathetic candlelights waiting for the sun. The blind and those in darkness waiting to wake. Hopeless and helpless sinners waiting for more to life, waiting for a way to become saints. All of us waiting for a way to Heaven.

Let’s stop waiting.

Because it’s all been accomplished. All that’s left to be done is for you and me to decide: will we say yes, too?

Merry soon Christmas.

*All this meaning in the simple gesture of genuflecting…

**More awesome photos of Rorate Masses around the country.

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How Women in Veils Inspire Males Like Me

[The following post is in honor of Pope Saint Pius X, whose memorial is today, and the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which we honor tomorrow.]

Ever since I rediscovered the Extraordinary Form of Mass for myself, being Roman Catholic has never been the same. In fact, three big markers pop out of my timeline of Catholic living: when I encountered the Theology of the Body, when I met Mary, and when I discovered the Tridentine Mass.

Over the past few years of attending Tridentine Masses whenever I could (each time a wonderful treat!), one of the things most noticeably distinct to me are the number of women — young and old — who don the chapel veil (aka: mantilla). I always felt different at Mass and worship in the presence of these women in veils, but I didn’t know why (or how so) until this past weekend in the most unlikely of places…

Mass at CampI was at the Midwest’s annual weekend training camp for leadership in the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement of America. Just before our opening Mass in an open field, in the humble shade of a tree and under the gaze of the morning sun, one of my dear friends beside me pulled out a white lace veil and draped it over her hair. It was out of the corner of my eye, but I saw everything in slow motion. I could not believe what I was seeing, and how it lifted my heart. Instantly, I felt a rush of reverence: if she could humble herself so much before Jesus… then how much more should I long to join her in worshiping Him! Her simple gesture to honor Christ floored me, and inspired me to show at least as much reverence.

And then, I found out she was not the only one. Throughout the Masses we shared at camp, I saw another young woman under a veil. As she approached Jesus in the Eucharist, as she knelt before our King and received His Communion, I found myself no longer able to stand before the Lord. The simple and passing beauty of the scene between the King and His daughter made me feel unworthy of beholding it so. I turned my eyes down… I wanted to crawl to Communion because my soul could sense the holiness present. My humble little heart could not handle the beauty.

I know not why it was this setting, this weekend, this event that helped me see how women in veils could help males like me worship, but I praise the Holy Spirit for the gift of this experience, for the gorgeous gift of these women. Thank you. And to further the glory of God, I asked these women to personally share with you their beautiful story…

I’m an all-in-kind-of girl, and as of that, I’ve come to realize that my inability to commit partially is both a blessing and a curse. In any case, it is most definitely the reason why I usually find myself, either, fatally wrong or unshakably confident.

My decision whether to veil or not to veil was no exception. Unbeknownst to me, my discernment process started a few years ago as casual curiosity and admiration. I didn’t have any strong feelings towards it, other than, “Wow, that’s beautiful and holy looking……. I probably shouldn’t wear it.”

But then, through my encounter with the Theology of the Body and the Blessed Sacrament, my understanding for the Church, worship and the nature of God developed — and I wanted to participate in my faith more fully.

It started with my decision to dress more modestly — by replacing my skimpy bikinis with one piece bathing suits.  I avoided controversial situations, like getting drunk while bar hopping in leotards — or just getting drunk, period. (I’m not really sure why I ever thought that it was appropriate to wear leotards as a complete outfit). But bit by bit… all these little changes restored my self image as a child of God. It helped me see myself how my Creator intended me to be. I became more aware of how I needed to represent myself as part of Christ’s body, so much so that I became uncomfortable when I misrepresented myself — and thus misrepresented Christ.

But the holy smack didn’t happen until a few months ago, when I was listening to Tim Staples, an apologist, talk about how Catholics are missing the point of Mass. It’s not just about us ‘getting fed’ but instead the Mass/Sabbath is a day, set aside to give God the praise and worship that is just.  It’s the time to fall to our knees to ask for forgiveness, grace and mercy. It’s the time to glorify Him and hail Jesus to be our true Savior.

Worship is not a matter of my feelings, it is our response to faith.

Furthermore, when I reflected on Scripture, and saw how Jesus references the Church as His bride. The pieces started to fall in place and I understood more clearly, what my Living God was doing. Day-in-and-day-out, upon that altar, He was keeping His Word. He was coming to us, as a MAN. He was offering Himself — completely and fully to us. He was re-establishing a covenant.

Jesus was all in.

[Korean Figure Skater, Yuna Kim, wears the veil.]

[Korean Figure Skater, Yuna Kim, wears the veil.]

This brought me to my knees — literally. I not only genuflected before the Eucharist, I went down on both knees. I am a mortal human that has been chosen to be a temple of God…! I was in the presence of a king. I was receiving Christ! And I wanted to do what was just and deserving of that honor.I begin to prepare for Mass differently. I hung onto every word of the liturgy. I humbly, surrendered and re-committed my life to Jesus, each and every time I received Him.I am a woman, claimed by Christ, Himself.So, what about the veil? Well, there’s no high theology here. It just made sense and was fitting. I want to submit myself before the Lord.  I want to embrace my role as a woman in the Church. The veil represents something that had changed WITHIN me. It is an outward sign of a commitment made in the depths of my heart and soul. So with unshakable confidence — I wear it…’Cause I’m an all-in-kind-of girl.

-Santa Thérèse

The beauty of the mantilla never struck me until reading Crystalina Evert’s blog on the Chastity Project; before, it had just been some weird headdress that old women and younger, presumptuous girls wore to Mass to show off their holiness.  Little did I know that those women didn’t wear those veils because they thought they were holy – it was because they needed to be holier.

Before Vatican II, women were required to wear a chapel veil to Mass in order to show reverence to the Lord on His day, as well showing the world that they, as women, were sacred enough to veil and be protected from the world around them.  The sacred should be veiled, as the Eucharist is protected in the monstrance, the tabernacle, and under the veil during Mass.  After Vatican II, the requirement of wearing the mantilla was taken out of Canon Law, and feminists in the 60’s denounced wearing it because they believed that it was a symbol of slavery to men and to the church, and so the beautiful tradition of the mantilla faded away.

When I read Crystalina’s thoughts on the mantilla, the idea of wearing one intrigued me, but I brushed it off because I didn’t want people looking at me funny or thinking I was getting above myself.  But the image of the veil kept popping into my head, incessantly and constantly.  I decided to pray about it and leave it up to God to show me what I should do, because if I was going to go all out Mary-style, I needed to know exactly why I would.  In the meantime I did some research on it.  I found that several First Ladies, including Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, and Michelle Obama, all wore veils upon meeting Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis.  If powerful women felt the need to veil themselves in the presence of the Holy See, why shouldn’t we veil ourselves in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?  Not only does the veil show that women are sacred, it also helps you grow into your sacredness.  The wearing of the mantilla promotes the growth of virtues such as chastity, purity, humility, and modesty, all of which are exemplified in the Virgin Mary, who is always depicted wearing a veil.

[Icon by Mina Anton]

[Icon by Mina Anton]

The more I read, the more I felt that God was calling me to be more like our Mother, and to emulate her in everything that I do. Like Crystalina, I loved the idea of being covered by the Holy Trinity and being protected by it.  My boyfriend bought me a white mantilla, which is the traditional color for unmarried women, made of Spanish lace as an homage to my patron saint, Teresa of Avila.  Wearing the mantilla makes me feel like I am alone with Christ during Mass; everyone else melts away, and it’s just me and my maker. I feel more alert, more open, more joyful, and even excited when I get the chance to put it on. I feel even more excited when people ask me about it, because it gives me a chance to share my love for the Holy Family and Holy Trinity.  I love the feel of the lace on my hair, like the caress of a parent’s hand on their child’s head.  I love the way the veil frames my line of vision when I look at the Eucharist.  And I love being able to grow closer to my heavenly Father and my Blessed Mother.

-ANonymous

“And this is why the female body should be veiled because everything which is sacred calls for veiling. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he veiled his face. Why did he veil his face? Because he had spoken to God and at that very moment there was a sacredness that called for veiling… Veiling indicates sacredness and it is a special privilege of the woman that she enters church veiled.” –Dr. Alice von Hildebrand

More thoughts on the mantilla from around the Catholic blogosphere:

1) I Love My Chapel Veil

2) Notes from Beneath the Veil

3)And here’s a video on the veil! 

The Underground Rail

During the past few weeks, there’s been quite a few blog posts railing (pun intended, you’ll see) against the way Roman Catholics receive Holy Communion in the past 50 years. Complaints have ranged from the current mode as being too factory-like, too restrictive, too forceful, and even too formal. Calls were made to make it all more spontaneous, covert, and unobtrusive. You can see what I’m talking about here and here.

Well, I was at my Holy Hour today, and reflected on that perspective. There were good points to be made, but I felt the overall argument was against the overstepping ushers – not necessarily the way we receive Communion.

But then it got deep.

I gazed at our Lord in the monstrance, and He reminded me how I felt less than 24 hours earlier, when I was at a Low Tridentine Mass in a beautiful, yet cold, dim, downtown church (St. Joseph’s of Detroit). It was time for Holy Communion, and we made our way to the communion rail (aka: altar rail. Click here for more about the different parts of a Catholic church building.). I knelt at the rail that divided the nave from the sanctuary, that kept us at a distance from the high altar, that we waited at as the priest approached us and spoon fed us God. I remember feeling strange kneeling beside a man I didn’t know, among strangers who I’ve never seen.

[Notice the Altar Rail along the bottom of the photo.]

[Notice the Altar Rail along the bottom of the photo.]

BirdFeedingThen I realized the beauty – the intimacy. At a communion rail, I am there waiting long enough to gain a sense of angst, to wander in the wonder, to reflect, pray, and be childlike. At a communion rail, we get to wait, to anticipate, to be near so beautiful a sanctuary. The rail serves partly as a limit, a boundary, to keep us in check, to remind us that we are not holy enough, not ready enough, never good enough! The priest – who is in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) – must bring Jesus to us. Our Blessed Lord must come down to us, must stoop down to us as we kneel in wait before Him, and He must feed us like we are his lost and hungry flock, like we are starving little hatchlings still in the nest. He must come to us, because we as mortal man can never lift ourselves to Him. He first loved us, as any parent must first love their child before any of us can ever return love.

[The priest prays for every communicant, one by one as he/she receives communion: “May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto everlasting life. Amen.”

And when we are knelt, we are always lower than anyone who is standing. The communion rail encourages us to kneel before Beauty, to stare up with awe at the most gorgeous part of the church: the altar, the tabernacle, the frescoes and stained windows, the statues and the view. So, we are lower than the Lord, and He comes down to our level, and we gaze up at Him as He gives us Himself.

Kneeling also renders us vulnerable to He who is standing. Jesus reaches down to us, gives to us, then lifts us from our humility and vulnerability into intimacy, into His glory and dignity. Then there’s kneeling beside and among strangers during Communion, and when we receive the Lord with them, we become siblings all of us. We shared God together. We become spiritually intimate.

Outside of the Extraordinary Mass, I only ever see people receive Communion knelt at their weddings. The new couple, before the altar, knelt together, intimate as they share God. If this is such a powerful experience for the newlyweds, then no wonder it was the norm for centuries! For millennia even!

Then came the communion line we know of today… sometimes feeling more like a conveyor belt as we shuffle up to receive a handout. We take, then go – like a dine-and-dash, like a carry-out. It’s too quick, too efficiency-oriented, too much like a factory. That’s where I agree with the detractors of “orderly” Communion. But I cannot agree when they seem to call for a random mad-dash, bad-timing-prone, childish and Black-Friday-esque Communion experience (yes, someone even said it should have the fervor of Black Friday chaos. Mind them, people are trampled to death on that shopping day…). The rail calls us to be childlike, but the craziness asked for calls us to be childish!

Yet despite those and other points that I disagree with, I would say the railers are actually deeply longing for the rail of old, the time tested communion rail of the Vetus Ordo Mass, the largely forgotten and neglected and unjustly detracted and overlooked and forced underground communion rail. Because I realized how beautiful and intimate Holy Communion is… and I did not realize it in some queue, but at the rail! among and beside my siblings! humbled before God.

And you can see more of what I’m sharing here.