Previous parts in this series:
Commemoration of St. Anicetus, Pope and Martyr (for Spy Wednesday 2019).
These three days are a bit less remarkable than the other days during Holy Week, since they do not have any special ceremonies outside the Mass.
The Bible describes several events occurring on Holy Monday, after Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. First, he cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem, overturning tables and expelling the merchants who were buying and selling livestock for sacrifice, saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12-13). Although the popular idea of this scene is Jesus becoming angry and losing his temper, the Bible does not say that he became angry, only that he overturned the tables and drove them out of the Temple. God insists on his Church being pure and holy. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would never overcome his Church (Matthew 16:18). Thus, in the days leading up to his Passion, he cleansed his holy Temple of all impurity. This event also foreshadows the Last Judgment, when those living in sin will be cast out into eternal punishment.
St. Matthew tells us that, after driving the trade, thievery, and sin from the Temple, Jesus healed the blind and lame in the Temple that day, thus restoring the Temple to the oasis of faith, hope, and charity that God built it to be (Matthew 21:14). When the Jewish authorities questioned our Lord, he responded by quoting Psalm 8:3: “Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise” (Matthew 21:15-16).
In addition to the cleansing of the Temple, on Holy Monday, Jesus passed a fig tree on his way to Bethania. Seeing that it had no fruit, Jesus cursed the tree, saying, “May no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever,” causing the tree to immediately die (Matthew 21:17-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-25). With this miracle, Jesus displays his divinity and his power over nature and shows the efficacy of prayer. As he explains to Peter, “Amen I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed and be cast into the sea, and shall not stagger in his heart, but believe, that whatsoever he saith shall be done; it shall be done unto him. Therefore I say unto you, all things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive; and they shall come unto you” (Mark 11:23-24). A good Catholic must devote himself first and foremost to prayer. Father Joseph Heffernan, FSSP, frequently preaches about the necessity of at least fifteen minutes of meditative prayer each day. Finally, the cursing of the fig tree also foreshadows the Last Judgment, when those who do not bring forth the good fruits of Christ's love will, like the fig tree, be cursed and whither away in hell.
The Mass of Holy Monday is, for the most part, an ordinary Mass. It begins as usual with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. In the pre-1955 liturgy, Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday have the rank semiduplex or “semidouble,” which means that other feasts can be commemorated on these days. In 2019, there are no commemorations on Holy Monday or Tuesday. If there are no commemorations, the second collect will be one of the collects pro diversitate temporum, or “collects for various occasions,” which, before 1960, were used on all but the most solemn feasts. On Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the second collect may be either against persecutors of the Church or for the Pope (page 7 of the PDF booklet for Holy Monday).
The Epistle of Holy Monday is Isaiah 50:5-10, in which the Prophet Isaiah calls us to have faith in Christ and offer up any suffering to him (pages 7-8). A Gradual from Psalm 34 is followed by a Tract from Psalm 102:10, 78:8-9 (pages 8-11). This Tract is sung every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in Lent except for Ember Wednesday. It is penitential in character, imploring God's help and mercy. At the third verse, Psalm 78:9, beginning at the words Adjuva nos, we genuflect before our Lord to humbly beg his mercy.
The Gospel is taken from John 12:1-9 (pages 11-12). According to St. John, this event takes place before Palm Sunday. Jesus has dinner with his friends in Bethania. A woman named Mary (traditionally understood to be St. Mary Magdalene) anoints the feet of Jesus with an expensive oil that would ordinarily be used to anoint the dead. Of course, this foreshadows the death of Jesus. Judas Iscariot, the faithless apostle who would later betray our Lord, objected, saying, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” For this, Judas has been half-jokingly called the “patron saint of social justice.” His true intention was not to help the poor, but to steal the money for himself. Like so many lukewarm Catholics, Judas was called to be a faithful follower of Christ, but his love of earthly things was too strong. Jesus rebuked Judas, saying, “Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial. For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.”
The rest of Mass on Holy Monday is as normal. There is no Credo. The Preface is that of the Holy Cross (pages 17-18). Commemorations and prayers pro diversitate temporum are added at the secrets and postcommunions as at the collects. It will be convenient to note here that, although St. Joseph's name was not added to the Canon of the Mass until 1962, his name is still being used in the Canon in those FSSP parishes using the traditional Holy Week liturgy. At the end of Mass on all ferias of Lent, there is a prayer super populum or solemn prayer over the people after the postcommunions and before the Benedicamus Domino (page 28). To begin this prayer, the priest sings, “Oremus,” and the deacon invites the people to bow down before the Lord in prayer. Mass ends with the Last Gospel. In the pre-1955 liturgy, the Gospel of a commemorated Mass is sometimes read as a proper Last Gospel, but that is not the case during Holy Week. The Last Gospel is always John 1:1-14.
There are no biblical events said to occur specifically on Holy Tuesday, though the Gospels give us many parables that Jesus told during the critical time between his entry into Jerusalem and his Crucifixion. These parables include the great wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14), the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The parable of the ten virgins is depicted on the front cover of the PDF booklet for Holy Tuesday (page 1). These parables tell of the kingdom of heaven and the Last Judgment, which we remember during Holy Week. In addition, some notable teachings of Jesus during this time include the summary of the law (Matthew 22:36-40) and the teaching on the authority of the Pharisees, condemning their spiritual pride (Matthew 23).
The Introit of Holy Tuesday is taken from Galatians 6:14: “But it behoves us to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection; by whom we are saved and delivered” (pages 5-6). This relates to our Lord's aforementioned teaching on pride. We have no glory except in the Cross of Christ. Only through the Cross can we obtain salvation and life. Next to the Cross, everything else is vain and worthless. As on Holy Monday, if there is no commemoration, the second collect may be either for the Pope or against persecutors of the Church. The Epistle is from the Prophecy of Jeremiah, foretelling the Crucifixion of Christ as the lamb carried to be a victim, cut off from the land of the living.
We now come to the second Passion Gospel, the Passion according to St. Mark (pages 9-35). It is sung exactly as on Palm Sunday, except that palm branches are not held. Three deacons sing the parts of the Christus, the Chronicler, and the Synagoga. The ending, describing the burial of Christ, is sung by the deacon of the Mass to a beautiful, melismatic tune (pages 33-35).
The Gospel according to St. Mark is believed to be the first account of the Gospel written, and the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke were modeled on that of St. Mark. It is also the shortest of the four Gospels, but the account of the Passion is similar in length to those of St. Matthew and St. Luke. The Passion consists of the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of the Gospel according to St. Mark. It is mostly along the same lines as the Passion according to St. Matthew. It begins with the anointing at Bethany, the pact of Judas, and the Last Supper, and it concludes with the burial of Christ. Unlike Matthew, Mark does not include the Jewish people taking responsibility for the Crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:24-25) or the guards being placed at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66).
The rest of the Mass on Holy Tuesday is as usual. The Preface is of the Holy Cross (pages 39-41). A prayer super populum is sung after the postcommunions (page 51).
Holy Wednesday is also called “Spy Wednesday,” the word “spy” in this case meaning a hostile plotting. Although it is remembered on Holy Monday, this is the day that Mary of Bethany anointed the feet of Jesus, to Judas's dismay. In that event, we see Judas as the faithless thief that he is. The same day, Judas met with the Sanhedrin and made the agreement to betray our Lord for thirty pieces of silver, or about USD$400. Judas had the choice between his Lord and Savior or $400, and he chose the $400. This is the same decision that we make every time we choose to sin. We are choosing some material good or some brief moment of pleasure over God. Judas's meeting with the Sanhedrin is the reason why we call this day “Spy Wednesday.”
The Introit for the Mass of Spy Wednesday is taken from Philippians 2:10, 2:8, 2:11, the same passage as the Epistle for Palm Sunday (pages 5-6 of the PDF booklet for Spy Wednesday), adoring the holy name of Jesus Christ: “In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. And every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.”
There are two readings before the Gospel, both from Isaiah. The first lesson is preceded by a collect (page 7). At the beginning of this collect, after the priest sings, “Oremus,” the deacon sings, “Flectamus genua,” and all kneel for a moment of silent prayer. The subdeacon then sings, “Levate,” all rise, and the priest sings the collect. The first reading is Isaiah 63:1-7 and may be sung by a lector or by the subdeacon of the Mass (pages 7-8). In this reading, Isaiah foretells the coming of the Messiah and the redemption that he will bring by his Precious Blood. Isaiah likens the Precious Blood of Jesus to red wine from a winepress.
Following the first reading is a Gradual from Psalm 68, which like most of the psalmody during Holy Week, has a penitential character, pleading to God for his mercy and salvation (pages 8-9). Next is another collect, this time not preceded by Flectamus genua / Levate. This collect is followed by either a commemoration or a prayer pro diversitate temporum. In 2019, there is a commemoration of St. Anicetus, Pope and Martyr, on Spy Wednesday. This commemoration is included in a separate PDF, linked at the beginning of this article. St. Anicetus was the eleventh Pope of the Catholic Church, reigning from AD 157 until his martyrdom at the hands of Roman Co-Emperor Lucius Verus in 168. He debated with St. Polycarp about the date of Easter.
The second reading, the Epistle of the Mass, is Isaiah 53:1-12 (pages 10-11). The Prophet begins this passage by asking, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Isaiah foretells the humility and suffering of the Messiah because of our sins. Jesus desires no earthly glory or beauty, only the divine glory that he won for all of us through the Cross. The Epistle is followed by a Tract from Psalm 101, one of the seven penitential psalms (pages 11-12). Once again, we acknowledge our wickedness before God and plead for his mercy.
For the Gospel, three deacons sing the third Passion, that of St. Luke (pages 12-37). It has the same structure as the three previous Passions, as the Gospels according to Ss. Matthew, Mark, and Luke (known as the “synoptic Gospels”) are for the most part very similar. A few things, however, are unique to St. Luke's account of the Passion. Before Jesus goes into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray after the Last Supper, he tells his apostles, “He that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword” (Luke 22:36), meaning that we must always be well prepared and well armed in our spiritual warfare. Only St. Luke, a physician, mentions that, in his Agony in the Garden, Jesus's sweat became drops of blood (Luke 22:44). This is a rare medical condition known as hematohidrosis caused by extreme mental anxiety. Although all four Passion accounts mention an apostle (whom St. John identifies as Simon Peter) cutting off the ear of a servant when Jesus is arrested, only St. Luke mentions that Jesus healed the ear (Luke 22:51). Finally, only St. Luke mentions that Jesus looked at St. Peter after his threefold denial of Christ (Luke 22:61). St. Peter saw the holy and suffering face of his Lord and was forced to acknowledge the great sin he had committed. As always, the final part of the Passion, describing St. Joseph of Arimathea burying our Lord, is sung by the deacon of the Mass to a special tone with the ceremonies of the Gospel of the Mass (pages 36-37).
The rest of the Mass for Spy Wednesday is as on the preceding two days. The Preface is of the Holy Cross (pages 42-43), and a prayer super populum is sung after the postcommunions (page 52). Compline on Spy Wednesday is the last time that Ave Regina Caelorum is sung as the final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is no other special liturgy for Spy Wednesday, but Tenebrae (Matins and Lauds) of Holy Thursday is often sung on Wednesday evening. The ceremony of Tenebrae will be described in the next article.
On a human level, Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday may seem like the less exciting part of Holy Week, since other than the Passions, there are no special ceremonies like those of Palm Sunday or the Sacred Triduum. It is merely three ordinary Masses. However, it is important to remember (and very easy to forget) that every Mass, no matter how routine, is the greatest thing in the history of humanity. In every Mass, our salvation is made manifest before us. In every Mass, we transcend time and space and kneel next to our Blessed Mother and St. John at Calvary, looking upon our suffering Lord nailed to the Cross. In every Mass, God himself condescends to us under the humble appearance of ordinary bread and wine.
Moreover, the purpose of the sacred liturgy is to direct one's mind and soul to God. These three Masses during the first half of Holy Week in particular enable us to meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ, on God's mercy, and on our own sinfulness. They prepare us to properly celebrate the Sacred Triduum. In the Epistles, we hear from the Prophets, foretelling the coming of the redeemer and exhorting us to repentance. In the Graduals and Tracts, we sing penitential psalms, joining King David in pleading to God for his grace and mercy. We hear two further accounts of the Passion of our Lord. Thus, with these three Masses, Holy Mother Church spiritually prepares us for our remembrance of the Lord's death in the Sacred Triduum.
collects pro diversitate temporum – In the pre-1962 liturgy, additional collects for various occasions usually sung after the collect of the day, such as for the Pope or against persecutors of the Church.
prayer super populum or solemn prayer over the people – A prayer sung after the postcommunion on ferias in Lent to ask God's blessing over the congregation.