Saturday, 30 March 2013

On the way to resurrection

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad; even my body shall rest in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay. (Psalm 15:9-10)

Washing of the Feet

In the Mass of the Last Supper, Pope Francis broke with tradition by washing the feet of both men and women, at least one of them not even Christian. Traditionalists object that the Last Supper was for the apostles, the first bishops, and no women (let alone Muslims) were present. The foot-washing, according to some, must therefore represent an aspect of ordination and should be reserved to men, since the priesthood is for men only and the Last Supper was the beginning of the priesthood. But Francis has given this act a different interpretation.

In fact, he has done so in strict continuity with Pope Benedict, in his book Jesus of Nazareth. There Benedict makes it clear that the foot-washing represents the "descent", the humility, of Christ – his service to all mankind – and not the institution of the priesthood (although on another level the gesture also looks forward to the sacrament of confession that priests will one day offer to the baptized).The priesthood begins not with this act but with the words of institution and the birth of the Church and the Eucharist, when the bread and wine are offered.

The Twelve are not just apostles (priests) but also disciples, and they are disciples before they are priests. Christ descends to the lowest place to serve anyone who will receive him. For Francis, it is clear that Christ came to serve all, to offer salvation to all, even Muslim women. They will not necessarily understand what he does for them now, but one day they will understand (John 13:7). Nothing here is an opening to the ordination of women. Francis is simply giving this gesture its most universal meaning, consistent with the symbolism of Scripture.

Se also "The Mandatum Issue: Beware of Superficial Judgement" by Jeff Mirus.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Stations of the Cross

As we enter Holy Week, here are some meditations on the Way of the Cross, taken from All Things Made New. (Click on the link.) And here are Malcolm Guite's superb sonnets for the Stations taken from his book Sounding the Seasons. The painting on the right is by Velazquez. Please read also the following lovely prayer of St Ephraim, with commentary:

O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of discouragement,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.

But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
of meekness,
of patience,
and of love.

Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Second Spring

Don't miss out on the most recent issue of our journal of faith and culture, Second Spring. The current issue is devoted to the theme of Sacred Vessels – including the Holy Grail featured in this tapestry by the Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones. Leonie Caldecott opens with an article on Mary, the Church, and the Holy Face. Duncan Stroik looks at the history of the Tabernacle. The Orthodox writer Vladimir Zelinsky looks at the meanings of the human heart and Michael Martin at the writings of Solovyev, Dame Margaret Truran at the musical setting of the Psalms, Sr Margaret Atkins at Gerard Manley Hopkins, Fr Jerome Bertram at the chalice used in the Mass, and Keith Lemna at the essence of human freedom. In addition to this we have our usual poetry, book reviews, and reports, while Stratford and Leonie Caldecott sum up twenty years' experience of the "evangelization of culture." Voted (by us) the best journal of its kind in the world, Second Spring is available through Thomas More College in the United States or by credit card, or directly from the Oxford office. Join us if you need encouragement and inspiration!

Monday, 18 March 2013


 Pope Francis is a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. At his inauguration on 19 March, the solemnity of St Joseph the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and patron of the universal Church, in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the servers were said to be friars of Mount La Verna, the mountain where St Francis received the stigmata in 1224. Francis lived the Passion through a vision of the seraphim, the angels of God's love. As Bob Moynihan points out, it was this vision and the stigmata that led many to identify St Francis with the Angel in Chapter 7 of the Book of Revelation – and the emphasis in the Pope's homily on "protecting" seems to bear this out. "To 'protect' means to make sure what one protects is not harmed, not hurt. And so this emphasis on 'protecting' seems to recall a passage in the Book of Revelation which focuses on 'not hurting', that is, protecting. In Chapter 7 of Revelation, an angel ascends from the east, bearing 'the seal of the living God' [stigmata?]. This angel cries out in a 'loud voice' to the other 'angels,' who had been 'hurting' the earth." Bonaventure describes Francis in this way in his biography of Francis, the Legenda Major, and he interprets the vision of the seraph in his mystical treatise Itinerarium Mentis in Deo. Mystical times!