Holy Week

Caravaggio, Ecce Homo, c. 1606, Oil on canvas, 128 x 103 cm, Palazzo Rosso, Genoa

Caravaggio, Ecce Homo, c. 1606, Oil on canvas, 128 x 103 cm, Palazzo Rosso, Genoa

Our wandering in the desert comes to an end, and we are drawn to the saving power of the Light of Christ. Soon, the whole Church on earth and in Heaven will rejoice! And as we examine the successes and failures of this walk with Him over the past forty days, we do well to recall that it is a journey defined by imperfection; we are not alone in our many failures.

Like the crowd, we will wave in adoration as He enters the city,
and then later call for His crucifixion.

Like those who were indignant, we will wonder why some waste perfumed oil on Him.

Like the sons of Zebedee (and Peter), we will fall asleep when He asks us to pray with Him.

Like Judas, we will betray Him with a kiss, for a pocketful of coin.

Like most of His followers, we will scatter and abandon Him when He is arrested.

Like Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, we will pretend that we have power over Him.

Like those who bore false witness in the Temple, we will fail to witness the Truth of who He is.

Like Peter, we will deny that we even know Him.

Like Herod, our interest in Him will only extend as far as our curiosity; we will not open our hearts.

Like Pilate, we will wash our hands and fail to do Justice.

Like the Roman guards, we will mock Him for our own pleasure and dress Him up in finery and laugh and spit at Him, and trade in His treasures.

Like the Cyrene, we will object to carrying His cross, even for a little while.

Like the Centurion, we will bind His hands and feet, and drive the nails.

Like the bad thief,

we will laugh at His agony.

But let us also be

The woman who anointed,
The disciples who regretted,
Peter who wept,
Claudia who warned,
The Marys who stayed,
Veronica who ministered,
John who adopted,
The good thief who saw,
The Centurion who spoke,
The Arimathean who venerated.



Thursday after Ash Wednesday: Station at St. George

For Christmas we received from some dear friends a book by George Weigel entitled Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches, which we are using this Lent as part of our religion curriculum. Today’s station is St. George in Velabro.

IMG_4300Weigel says that St. George features “springing arches” to lighten the walls, fretwork windows and “two slender side aisles [that] flank a wide nave covered by a wooden ceiling with painted stars”. The church “sits in the swampy valley of the Forum. ‘Velabro’ is derived from the Latin velum [marsh], and Roman tradition has it that here, at the base of the Palatine, when the Tiber was in flood, the infants Romulus and Remus were deposited in their basket, a first moment in the founding of the city.” The church is built over the Cloaca Maxima, “ancient Rome’s great sewer”. It faces the Arch of Janus, built around 325 as an entryway for the meat market next door.

Main altar, with shrine and reliquary containing head of St. George

Main altar, with shrine and reliquary containing head of St. George

St. George was a soldier from the eastern part of the empire. He refused to sacrifice to the emperor, and he and St. Sebastian (to whom the church is also dedicated) were tortured and killed by their fellow soldiers. In the ninth century, Pope Zachary gave St. George’s head as a relic to the church, which is now contained in a reliquary placed in a shrine inside the main altar.

According to Weigel, the interior likely contained frescoes throughout, but what now remains is a fresco over the apse by Pietro Cavallini, Christ Flanked by Mary and Sts. Peter, George and Sebastian.



Holy Father’s Lent and Holy Week Calendar Released

You can check it out here. The Pewsitter headline is “Holy Thursday Chrism Mass not in prison this year”. However, I’m not sure if this is quite correct; I don’t think the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday was held in the prison last year either.

Rather, I think the now-famous “foot washing of Muslim girl in Roman prison” took place during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, normally celebrated in the late afternoon or evening of Holy Thursday, while the Chrism Mass will take place at St. Peter’s in the morning of that day. The Zenit article states that in connection with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, “like last year and in previous years in Buenos Aires, he [Francis] will select a situation of a special nature from a pastoral point of view, which will be communicated when appropriate.” Perhaps a homeless shelter, or orphanage, or somewhere else altogether this year.