Scala Santa ⛪️

On this Good Friday, I remember last Friday when I visited the Scala Santa in Rome.

It is said in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine’s mom, Helena traveled to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage to the sites of Jesus’ life.

Being the emperor’s mom and an empress herself, gave her a ton of access. There she founded some major churches (like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem) and brought back a number of relics—including the stairs of the praetorium that Jesus climbed to be condemned by Pilate.

Placed in Rome as stairs to the Pope’s private chapel (because of course), they became a pilgrimage location where pilgrims would climb on the knees.

Hundreds of years ago, worried about wear, the original steps were covered in wood. Until now. The wood was removed for restoration work and they decided to leave it off and open them to the public until the end of the Easter season before adding the covering again.

By just pure luck, I was in Rome when they reopened it last Thursday and able to visit on Friday morning. It wasn’t really a moment to snap pictures on the phone. In visiting Rome, almost everywhere, I saw others taking pictures, but no one had a camera or phone out, so I took a quick one as I walked in. The Catholic Traveler on Instagram took some better pictures.

Picture of the Holy Stairs in Rome
Pilgrims ascending the exposed marble Scala Santa on their knees for the first time in hundreds of years.

As we look to celebrate Good Friday today, my mind takes me to these stairs trying to imagine what Jesus must have been thinking climbing them, knowing that condemnation awaited him.

I’m reminded of Palm Sunday liturgy where we counterposition of laying palms before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem only to have the crowd condemn him a short time later. Last Friday, I joined with others to worship him and to honor the physical existence he had on Earth, but then turn around and assuredly condemn him through sin or inaction.

If you find yourself in Rome, especially before June 9th, find a few minutes to visit St. John Lateran and the Scala Santa across the plaza.

Man’s Greatness

The wise man must not boast of his wisdom, nor of the strong man of his strength, nor the rich man of his riches. What then is the right kind of boasting? What is the source of man’s greatness? Scripture says: The man who boasts must bost of this, that he knows and understand that I am the Lord. Here is man’s greatness, here is man’s glory and majesty: to know in truth what is great, to hold fast to it, and to seek glory from the Lord of glory.

— From a homily by St. Basil per OOR, Monday, Third Week of Lent

Happy Annunciation!

Normally, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the celebration of the angel visiting Mary and asking her if she would bear Jesus, is on March 25th. Liturgical pregnancies are always nine months long (March 25th to December 25th, or the birth of Mary is celebrated nine months after the Immaculate Conception).

This year, though, the celebration is transferred to April 9th. Why?

Calendar rubrics FTW. The vast majority of liturgical celebrations are simply not celebrated when a “higher ranking” feat takes place on the same day.  The memorial of St. Ceallach in Ireland is usually celebrated on April 1st, but wasn’t celebrated at all since that was Easter Sunday. Solemnities, however, are transferred forward to the next available date that does not outrank it.

In 2018, March 25th fell on Palm Sunday, so the Annunciation would be pushed forward to Monday, March 26th. All of Holy Week, however, outranks the Annunciation, so it would to be pushed forward to Sunday, April 1st, which being Easter obviously outranks. The entire octave of Easter (the eight days from Easter to Divine Mercy Sunday/the 2nd Sunday of Easter) share the rank of Easter, so the Annunciation had to keep moving forward. The Monday of the 2nd week of Easter is known as “low Monday” from the Extraordinary Form where a “low Mass” would be celebrated for the first time in awhile. Be it a regular weekday of Easter, the solemnity outranks it and Mary’s visit from an angel found a home for 2018.

For your own edification, the Table of Liturgical Days is available from the Order of St. Benedict site. The table originated in Pope Paul VI’s Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar which is what guides local bishop conferences and how all those calendar printers get things right.

Awaiting Her Decision

The Catholic Christian tradition holds that Jesus was born to a normal woman, Mary,  who was a virgin, using the traditional definition of the term. God, being born into the world by a woman, wasn’t forced upon Mary, but only occurred after she gave her consent.

Whether or not you believe in Jesus, there is a beautiful treasury of literary images surrounding this aspect to the story. God’s ultimate plan for humanity is fully dependent on a single choice presented to a single person. The decision, the choice being made having eternal consequences for not only her and those after her, but all of those who came before she did, as salvation was only granted to those before her as a result of the sacrifice of Jesus, her son, who would only exist in human form if she consented.

In the Catholic Church, there is the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a prescribed set of readings from Biblical and extra-biblical sources, and prayers set to the time of the day, as well as the season of the year. On December 20th, the following is from the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours. Read More