The Cross is the Fountain of All Grace: This is why we need the Mass and Mary

As we increase our focus on the crucifixion of Christ our Lord this Lent, Pope Saint Leo the Great reminds us that the cross of the Christ is the fountain of all blessings. All graces are mediated to us through the cross of Christ (see quote below).
I would add Pope Leo’s words reveal why devotion to the Holy Sacrifice to the Mass and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary are absolutely essential. If all grace (100% of all grace) comes to us through the cross of Christ then this entails that we should be wholeheartedly devoted to the Holy Mass since every Mass is the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. Consequently, we can say that all grace comes to us through the Holy Mass.
Secondly, Mary’s place at the foot of the altar, as a mother who suffers as she beholds her innocent Son, the Son she shares with God the Father, suffers for all men. Mary’s Immaculate Heart, the heart of a perfect mother, is united to the Sacred Heart of her Son in this moment. When Christ proclaimed from the cross: “Behold thy mother!” He declared her to be the Mother of the Church – the Mother of every Christian – the Mother of every person. As such, she participates in the cross of Christ in a unique, special, and particular way. She is associated with human redemption more than any other created person. The only person who comes close to knowing and experiencing Christ’s suffering is His Mother Mary. If we don’t love her and draw near to her, we cannot fully appreciate the sacrifice of Her Divine Son for us.
From a practical point of view, if the Holy Mass is truly the same sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, then the liturgy should be revered and respected by all. To goof around in the Holy Mass, to chew gum, to answer cell phones, to talk, to “modify” the rubrics, to clap, to add prayers, to subtract prayers, that is, to reduce the solemnity is to make a mockery of the death of Christ. If the Church, clergy and laity, do not honor the Holy Sacrifice with tender love and devotion, then our Church will continue to suffer scandal, sacrilege, and vocation crises. Why? All grace comes through the Holy Mass. If we don’t honor Christ’s words and presence in the Holy Mass, they we are not disposed to receive these graces.
From Pope Leo the Great’s Sermon on the Passion (8):

Our understanding, which is enlightened by the Spirit of truth, should receive with purity and freedom of heart the glory of the cross as it shines in heaven and on earth. It should see with inner vision the meaning of the Lord’s words when he spoke of the imminence of his passion: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Afterward he said: Now my soul is troubled, and what am I to say? Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your Son. When the voice of the Father came from heaven, saying, I have glorified him, and will glorify him again, Jesus said in reply to those around him: It was not for me that this voice spoke, but for you. Now is the judgment of the world, now will the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.
How marvellous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgment-seat of the Lord, the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified.

Lord, you drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.

Now there is a more distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a more sacred anointing for the priesthood {here St Leo speaks of deacons, priests, and bishops – their existence is caused by the cross}, because your cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonour, life from death

The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of your body and blood is the fulfilment of all the different sacrificial offerings, for you are the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the world. In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one kingdom gathered from all peoples.

Dearly beloved, let us then acknowledge what Saint Paul, the teacher of the nations, acknowledged so exultantly: This is a saying worthy of trust, worthy of complete acceptance: Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.

God’s compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died, not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf.

The power of his death once confronted our death. In the words of Hosea the prophet: Death, I shall be your death; grave, I shall swallow you up. By dying he submitted to the laws of the underworld; by rising again he destroyed them. He did away with the everlasting character of death so as to make death a thing of time, not of eternity. As all die in Adam, so all will be brought to life in Christ.

Ex Sermonibus sancti Leónis Magni Papæ (Sermo 8, De passione Domini, 6-8: PL 54, 340-432)

Very beautiful and very powerful. The final reminder of the resurrection of Christ in this passage gives hope to our Lenten sacrifice.

The Veiling of Images in Lent (Old Passion Sunday)

Prior to 1969, the last Sundays of Lent were as follows:

  • Fourth Sunday: Laetare Sunday (known for the Rose vestments)
  • Fifth Sunday: Passion Sunday (known for the veiling of images on this day)
  • Sixth Sunday: Palm Sunday (known for the palm procession)

In the old days, Passion Sunday (5th Sunday) “ramped up” the Lenten season. Passion Sunday (also called Judica Sunday from the opening Introit) is the traditional day for veiling the crucifixes and statues in the churches. The practice allegedly derives from Bavaria (though I’d love for someone more knowledgable to shed light on the origin of this custom). The crosses and images remain veiled and add to the dramatic effect of Paschal Vigil when they are unveiled for the glory and wonder of our Lord’s resurrection. The famous medieval triptychs that opened and close were constructed for the purpose of closing them for this season.

Unfortunately, all this symbolism has been lost in the Novus Ordo arrangement of the calendar. His Holiness Pope Paul VI combined the title of Passion (5th) Sunday with Palm (6th) Sunday so that Palm (6th) Sunday was called: “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord” (Latin: Dominica in Palmis de Passione Domini).* Thus the previous tradition of according the 5th Sunday as “Passion Sunday” no longer exists in the Novus Ordo arrangement.

If you attend Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form (1962 Missale), the Passion tradition remains for this 5th Sunday of Lent.

In the Eastern Churches, the Fifth Sunday of Lent is also a time of “ramping up the penance.” The penitent nun St Mary of Egypt is today’s model for our Byzantine brethren. In some places, the Easterns bless “dried fruit” which is a symbol of asceticism and fasting.

* The modification began with His Holiness John XXIII who named the 5th Sunday “Dominica I Passionis” and the 6th Sunday “Dominica II Passionis seu in Palmis.” In other words, there was “First Passion Sunday” (5th Sunday) and “Second Passion Sunday,” (6th Sunday) with the latter also being Palm Sunday.

Photo: Sitting Bull Wore a Crucifix

Sitting Bull (sitting) wearing his crucifix
Not long ago, I was speaking with Father Phil Wolfe about the evangelization of the Flathead Indians in northwest America. He stood up up from his desk and went to one of his many bookshelves and pulled down a book. He opened it and set it in front of me with a page open to a photo.
“Who’s that?”
I had seen the photo several times since my youth. It’s in every student’s US History book. “That’s Sitting Bull,” I said.
“Have you ever seen this photo before?” he asked.
“Yes, of course.”
Father said, “Really. Look closer. Have you ever seen the non-cropped version of the Sitting Bull?”
I took another look. I couldn’t believe it. Sitting Bull was wearing a crucifix!
That’s correct. Sitting Bull wore a crucifix and apparently was baptized into the Catholic Faith by Father De Smet of the Jesuits. Here’s one account from a biography on General Custer:
It was stated at one time that Sitting Bull, while hating the white Americans and disdaining to speak their language; was yet very fond of the French Canadians, that he talked French, and that he had been converted to Christianity by a French Jesuit, named Father De Smet. How true this may be is uncertain, but probably there is some foundation for it. The French Jesuits have always been noted for their wonderful success in winning the affections of the Indians, as well as for the transitory nature of their conversions, and it is very possible that Father De Smet may have not only baptized Sitting Bull at some time, but induced him and his braves to attend mass, as performed by himself in the wilderness. The benefits of the conversion seem however to have been only skin deep, as far as preventing cruelty in war is concerned. (Whittaker, A Complete Life of General Custer, Volume 2, 535).
I think the photo reveals that this story is more than a legend. Sitting Bull wore the emblem of the Crucified Son of God from his neck. It’s a pity that the image is usually cropped  in magazines and textbooks so as to hide the crucifix. This just reveals that American political correctness has led to the revision of history. The photo has been cropped for so long that virtually no one knows that Sitting Bull wore a crucifix!
So pray for the repose of the soul of Thathánka Iyotake (Sitting Bull), who died on Dec 15, 1890.

The Best Catholic Film of All Time (The Cardinal)

This movie is the most pious and overly devotional (POD) movie I have ever seen. The liturgical footage is phenomenal. If you want Tridentine eye-candy, this film will keep you busy counting the embroidered fiddleback chasubles.
But the best part is the story. The movie traces the life of a man from his ordination to the Priesthood to his elevation as a Cardinal. It’s sort of a “Catholic Forest Gump,” if you will. Along the way it gets very interesting. I’ll share two of my favorite scenes.
At one point, the priest’s sister is about to die due to labor. She is not only not married but also an apostate from the Faith. The doctor informs the priest that the must abort the baby in order to save the mother. Anguish enters his face. The doctor says, “Is this some sort of religious scruple?” The priest fires back, “NO! It’s a commandment. Though shall not kill!” I won’t tell you what happens next.
Another great scene is when the Nazis are storming the Archbishop of Vienna’s palace. As they begin to destroy images of Christ and break down the door, our beloved priest (now a bishop) shouts out, “Save the Blessed Sacrament!” They run to the Cardinal of Vienna’s private altar and open the tabernacle. They very piously consume the hosts just as the Nazis barge in and begin abusing the attending priests. Anyway, the whole thing is fantastic and stirring. They care not for their lives, but only that the Blessed Sacrament might not be desecrated by the hands of the impious. You’ve got to see this movie.
When you see it, let me know what you think. It’s definitely worth buying on DVD:
<p><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br>Foot Note<br></p>

Caveat: The last and final scene is essentially a political speech for the Kennedy political machine. It’s basically an apology that Catholics are real Americans and are the greatest advocates of democracy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pappa Kennedy wrote the Cardinal’s speech. Given that this move was released in 1963, Catholicism and American politics were still on their honeymoon. Forgive the film for this and you’ll love it.

The Best Catholic Film of All Time (The Cardinal)

This movie is the most pious and overly devotional (POD) movie I have ever seen. The liturgical footage is phenomenal. If you want Tridentine eye-candy, this film will keep you busy counting the embroidered fiddleback chasubles.
But the best part is the story. The movie traces the life of a man from his ordination to the Priesthood to his elevation as a Cardinal. It’s sort of a “Catholic Forest Gump,” if you will. Along the way it gets very interesting. I’ll share two of my favorite scenes.
At one point, the priest’s sister is about to die due to labor. She is not only not married but also an apostate from the Faith. The doctor informs the priest that the must abort the baby in order to save the mother. Anguish enters his face. The doctor says, “Is this some sort of religious scruple?” The priest fires back, “NO! It’s a commandment. Though shall not kill!” I won’t tell you what happens next.
Another great scene is when the Nazis are storming the Archbishop of Vienna’s palace. As they begin to destroy images of Christ and break down the door, our beloved priest (now a bishop) shouts out, “Save the Blessed Sacrament!” They run to the Cardinal of Vienna’s private altar and open the tabernacle. They very piously consume the hosts just as the Nazis barge in and begin abusing the attending priests. Anyway, the whole thing is fantastic and stirring. They care not for their lives, but only that the Blessed Sacrament might not be desecrated by the hands of the impious. You’ve got to see this movie.
When you see it, let me know what you think. It’s definitely worth buying on DVD:
<p><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br>Foot Note<br></p>

Caveat: The last and final scene is essentially a political speech for the Kennedy political machine. It’s basically an apology that Catholics are real Americans and are the greatest advocates of democracy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pappa Kennedy wrote the Cardinal’s speech. Given that this move was released in 1963, Catholicism and American politics were still on their honeymoon. Forgive the film for this and you’ll love it.

The Breasts of Jerusalem: Laetare Sunday (4th Sunday in Lent)

The fourth Sunday in Lent marks the middle of Lent, and is commonly called “Laetare Sunday” from the traditional Latin Introit: “Laetare, Jerusalem; et conventum facite omnes, qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: at exsultetis et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus,” which translates:

“Rejoice Jerusalem, and meet together all you who love her; rejoice exceedingly, you who have been in sorrow, that you may leap for joy, and be satiated with comfort from her breasts. Ps. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord.”
The Introit recalls Zechariah 2:10 and Isaiah 66. Faithful Jerusalem is the daughter of Zion. Zion is a type of the Catholic Church and from this Holy Mother the Church, the faithful nurse like infant children. In the Introit, we are called to rejoice and find comfort at the breasts of Zion.
Notably, in the Latin missale prior to the Second Vatican Council, the epistle lesson was derived from Galatians 4. In fact, this passage is one of the few passages in the New Testament Vulgate that also uses the Latin word “laetare”:
But that Jerusalem, which is above, is free; which is our mother. For it is written: Rejoice {laetare}, thou barren, that bearest not: break forth and cry, thou that travailest not; for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband.
As I noted in my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul, this passage and its surrounding context is key in understanding that Paul comprehended the true Church as a “Mother.” Paul takes the Old Testament imagery of “Mother Zion” and applies it the true Church. This is a slam dunk for Catholics who find the fulfillment of Israel in the Catholic Church (see The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity for more on this topic). Consequently, the traditional Latin prayers and readings for Laetare Sunday are a rich bouquet of Catholic ecclesiology. The Church is the archetype of  “Mother Zion” of the Old Covenant.
The traditional Gospel reading is our Lord’s feeding of the 5,000 from St John’s Gospel. Why? Christ is in the wilderness and He feeds people miraculously. The theme of feeding at the breast continues here with Christ feeding the hungry mouths of Israel. All humans have experienced hunger and we find that Christ’s feeding ministry and the Church’s feeding ministry are one and the same. To be fed by Christ is to be fed by the Church.
The true nutrition is not bread alone, but the Word of God.
Of course, all this becomes even more significant when we contemplate how these prayers and readings are smack in the middle of Lent. Lent is a time of fasting – a time of not eating. Yet here in the middle of Lent we are reminded that Christ through our Mother the Church feeds us. The image of a child nursing at the breasts of his mother and that of a miraculous multiplication of loaves should remind us that we have “food to eat, which you know not” (Jn 4:32). The life of penance, fasting, almsgiving, and prayer feeds to the soul and prepares it for the the eternal beatific vision of God in eternity. This vision of God will truly be a feast for our eyes.
Happy Laetare Sunday!
Saint Bernard, one of my favorite saints, was fed from the breast of our Immaculate Mary after he said to her, “Show thyself my mother!” Note the mystical stream of milk entering his mouth…