HE STORY IS TOLD of a man who spoke with our Redeemer, saying: “Lord, this cross does not suit me; I cannot carry it.” Our Savior replied: “Come with Me.” The man was taken to an emporium. Christ told him: “Pick out any cross you like.” The man examined each cross carefully. “This one scratches my shoulder too much,” he thought. He had difficulty gripping another cross, so he decided against it. Another was too heavy and bulky for him to carry. Finally, the man selected one. “This one suits me, and I’m happy to carry it,” he said. He didn’t realize it, but it was the cross he came in with!
Hymn For 14 September • Today, I will speak about the cross. I don’t know whether readers will be interested in my thoughts, so I repeat what Father Valentine used to say: Take ’em or leave ’em. To begin, here’s a hymn in honor of 14 September, the feast of the Holy Cross. By the way, the banner (a.k.a. ‘flag’ or ‘device’ or ‘standard’) of Jesus Christ is His cross: 1
Sad Or Happy? • This hymn (#541 from the Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal) is a famous poem for the Holy Cross known as Vexilla Regis Prodeunt. Experts consider this one of the greatest of all hymns. The Brébeuf hymnal contains numerous translations, musical settings, explanatory notes, etc. for this ancient hymn. The translation shown in that video strikes me as elegant yet surprisingly literal. The melody is neither ‘sad’ nor ‘happy’—which is fitting. So much of the Christian Faith is like that. Our Lord suffered and died on the Friday called good. Even the fourth ‘joyful’ mystery includes Simeon telling our Lady her heart would be pierced with a sword of sadness. Indeed, the fourth ‘joyful’ mystery also includes the poorest possible gift (“a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons”), by which our Lord associates Himself with a life of poverty. [For the record, poverty is considered by Americans to be the greatest of all evils.]
14 September 2022 • On September 14th, we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This will be the fifteenth anniversary of SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, a document which caused many Catholics to discover—and to fall in love with—the holy traditions of the Catholic Church. Fifteen years ago, the pope declared: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”
Our Lord “Hides” From Us • You probably know the hymn called “Adóro Te Devóte,” attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas. This hymn—which is provided various translations & resplendent melodies in the Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal—contains the following stanza: In cruce latébat sola Déitas, | At hic latet simul et humánitas: | Ambo tamen credens atque cónfitens, | Peto quod petívit latro paénitens. Translated into English:
On the cross the Godhead alone lay hidden,
but here likewise lies hidden the manhood:
yet believing and acknowledging both,
I seek that which the repentant thief sought.
“Truly Thou Art A Hidden God” • Isaiah 45:15 says: “Verily thou art a hidden God.” According to Father Peter Gee, one drop of Our Lord’s Precious Blood—e.g. what was shed at the Circumcision—would have been enough to redeem the whole world. But our Lord chose to suffer and die on the cross to show us how much He loves us. “On the cross the Godhead alone lay hidden, but here likewise lies hidden the manhood.” Mysterious words! Our Lord chose to be present—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine. This teaching was rejected by the crowds in the Bible: “After this, many of his disciples went back to their old ways, and walked no more in his company” (John 6:67). Many still reject these teachings. A famous dissident publication—which shall remain nameless—for years has attacked the idea of Eucharistic adoration, trying to get away from the notion of the True Presence of Jesus and focus instead on the “community” becoming “the presences of Christ.” This evil publication insists that it’s “wrongheaded” to adore Christ during Mass. They begrudgingly admit that a Catholic who receives the SANCTISSIMUM under only one form receives the whole and entire Christ (cf. Lauda Sion v19), but they complain bitterly about this. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is not enough for such people. Talk about entitlement!
Heavy Crosses Borne By Choirmasters • I could easily spend the next decade writing a book about the injustices I’ve seen toward Catholic musicians. In my 25 years as a choirmaster, I’ve witnessed hypocrisy and mistreatment that would make your head spin. Indeed, anyone who’s worked in the field of sacred music could undoubtedly tell tales of corruption and cruelty that would bring tears to my eyes. The worst is when someone you’ve been friends with, someone you’ve helped, and someone you’ve served betrays you. Such betrayals often happen for the dumbest reasons imaginable. So what do we do? How do we ‘process’ or ‘deal’ or ‘cope’ with these heavy crosses? It is helpful to say this prayer at least once a day. It is good to recall that our Lord made the ultimate sacrifice. It is excellent to read Chapter 12 from The Imitation of Christ by Father Thomas à Kempis (d. 1471AD), which is called “The Royal Road of the Holy Cross.”
Jeff’s Weird Solution • When members of the Catholic Church betray you, treat you poorly, lie to you, or abuse you, the pain is real. It may not be a physical pain, but it still hurts very much. Sometimes it’s good to remember the blessings we have. Modern medicine, clean drinking water, air conditioning, electricity, technology, loving family members, our health … God has given each of us so much! The suffering that comes from mistreatment is painful, there’s no doubt about it. And yet, so many jobs are even more stressful. For example, I did numerous jobs throughout my life, yet I was never forced to clean toilets for a living—and I thank God for this. [I would clean toilets for a living if that were the only way I could support my family. Nevertheless, I feel blessed that I’ve never had to do this; I would not enjoy it.]
Ancient Manuscript • Here is how the Vexilla Regis Prodeunt—the hymn for the Holy Cross—looks in the Harley MS 2961 (circa 1062AD):
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 When Catholic hymns speak of standard-bearer, they refer to “a soldier responsible for carrying the distinctive flag of an army.” They do not refer to somebody doing a mediocre job of carrying something!