THE ANNUNCIATION: “AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH” – A DAY OF DECREES

THE ANNUNCIATION: “AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH”

What a beautiful day this is – March 25, feast of the Annunciation!

Pope Francis’ brief message today (which I posted earlier on Facebook) and his praying the Our Father with Christians from around the world, all united to Rome at the same time, was a very moving experience. I had been looking forward to this since Sunday when he announced it and was just sitting down in front of TV when my doorbell rang! To say I was astonished is an understatement! No one is out and about and we are all in quarantine these days so who would ring my doorbell!

It was our doorman Carlo to tell me that the building’s satellite system, which had been down since Friday the 13th (yes!), hours after I got back from the US, was back up and the technicians wanted to know if I had satellite back. I checked my TV and all I saw was “no signal from the antenna.” And this was happening precisely at 12 noon when I wanted to see the Pope and pray with him!

Carlo and three technicians came to my place – masks and all – and with a few manoeuvers managed to get my satellite back up and running. I had opened the door for them before they arrived and was in the living room as they worked – we were all the required distance of separation if not more!

How are we living these days? I sanitized the door handle and everything else they had touched – just in case! Better safe than sorry, as the expression goes!

In any case, I prayed the Our Father ten minutes late but then did it several times today!

I have one amazing memory that I think about every year on this day, the feast of the Annunciation. It happened ten years ago…..

On February 18, 2010, I was in Lebanon on my way to Iraq when the government announced that it had made March 25 a national Christian-Muslim Day, something that had never occurred before in the history of Christian-Muslim relations. The decision was confirmed two days later during a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

On February 18, I was in the offices of a Catholic newspaper in Beirut where people were scurrying to get this announcement in the press! The first joint celebration occurred a month later on March 25 as an official national holiday sanctioned by the government of Lebanon. All public buildings, schools, banks and university were closed and the government encouraged private businesses to do the same.

For Christians, Mary is the Mother of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For Muslims, Mary is a much-revered figure as the Mother of the prophet Jesus. In September 1995 I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the UN conference on Women in Beijing. On September 8, a member of the Iran delegation came to our office with a beautiful picture of Mary, saying their delegation wanted to celebrate her birthday that day and this was their gift to us!

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation:

Two years ago, again in the Middle East, in Amman, Jordan for the first time Christians and Muslims held an inter-religious celebration to mark the Annunciation. Patriarchal vicar Bishop William Shomali said the celebration was part of the “theological, religious, and spiritual dialogue” that accompanies everyday life in Jordan. “We want to show the common points between Christians and Muslims on the Annunciation, in which even Muslims believe.”

A DAY OF DECREES

Earlier today I posted two decrees from two different Vatican congregations regarding how Easter liturgies are to be celebrated worldwide in the Church during the coronavirus epidemic. You will probably get news in this regard from your own bishops but now you know the rules and understand what he will say we can do – and not do – and why.

Two more decrees came down from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – one is a Note for the presentation of the Decree Cum sanctissima on the liturgical celebration in honor of Saints in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, and the second is a Note for the presentation of the Decree Quo magis approving seven Eucharistic Prefaces for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

Each is fairly lengthy and I do not have time now to summarize those now. However, if Vatican News posts a summary before I can get to that, I’ll put the link up here, on Facebook and on Twitter.

CELEBRATING EASTER LITURGIES IN A CORONAVIRUS ERA – INDICATIONS FOR PASCHAL CELEBRATIONS IN EASTERN CATHOLIC CHURCHES

CELEBRATING EASTER LITURGIES IN A CORONAVIRUS ERA

The following decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments was published today by the Holy See Press Office:

DECREE In time of Covid-19 (II)

Considering the rapidly evolving situation of the Covid-19 pandemic and taking into account observations which have come from Episcopal Conferences, this Congregation now offers an update to the general indications and suggestions already given to Bishops in the preceding decree of 19 March 2020.

Given that the date of Easter cannot be transferred, in the countries which have been struck by the disease and where restrictions around the assembly and movement of people have been imposed, Bishops and priests may celebrate the rites of Holy Week without the presence of the people and in a suitable place, avoiding concelebration and omitting the sign of peace.

The faithful should be informed of the beginning times of the celebrations so that they can prayerfully unite themselves in their homes. Means of live (not recorded) telematic broadcasts can be of help. In any event it remains important to dedicate an adequate time to prayer, giving importance above all to the Liturgia Horarum.

The Episcopal Conferences and individual dioceses will see to it that resources are provided to support family and personal prayer.

1 – Palm Sunday. The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within sacred buildings; in Cathedral churches the second form given in the Roman Missal is to be adopted; in parish churches and in other places the third form is to be used.

2 – The Chrism Mass. Evaluating the concrete situation in different countries, the Episcopal Conferences will be able to give indications about a possible transfer to another date.

3 – Holy Thursday. The washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted. At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the procession is also omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle. On this day the faculty to celebrate Mass in a suitable place, without the presence of the people, is exceptionally granted to all priests.

4 – Good Friday. In the Universal Prayer, Bishops will arrange to have a special intention prepared for those who find themselves in distress, the sick, the dead, (cf. Missale Romanum). The adoration of the Cross by kissing it shall be limited solely to the celebrant.

5 – The Easter Vigil: Is to be celebrated only in Cathedral and parish churches. For the “Baptismal Liturgy” only the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises” is maintained (cf. Missale Romanum).

Seminaries, houses of clergy, monasteries and religious communities shall follow the indications of this decree.

Expressions of popular piety and processions which enrich the days of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum can be transferred to other suitable days in the year, for example 14 and 15 September, according to the judgement of the Diocesan Bishop.

De mandato Summi Pontificis pro hoc tantum anno 2020.

From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 25 March 2020, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

Robert Card. Sarah Prefect
Arthur Roche Archbishop Secretary

INDICATIONS FOR PASCHAL CELEBRATIONS IN EASTERN CATHOLIC CHURCHES

Dispositions issued today from the Congregation for Eastern Churches:

Considering the rapid evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, including in many countries where faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches live, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches invites the Heads of all the Churches sui iuris to issue norms in accordance with the measures established by the civil authorities for the containment of the contagion and to encourage such conduct with the other Christian Churches, Catholic and non-Catholic, present on the same territory. Considering the different ritual traditions and the Easter celebrations according to their respective calendars, it is not possible to issue a unitary provision that would cover all the uses present in each Church sui iuris.

Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to share the following recommendations:

– The feasts are strictly to be kept on the days foreseen by the liturgical calendar, broadcasting or streaming those celebrations that are possible,so that they can be followed by the faithful in their homes.

– Consideration should be given to the adaptations that will be made necessary by limited presence at the liturgical service. The participation of the choir and ministers expected by some ritual traditions is not possible at the present time when prudence advises avoiding gathering in significant numbers.

– Those parts of the celebrations connected to some rite outside the church are omitted.

– Remind the faithful of the value of personal and family prayer, which is authentic ecclesial prayer and an important means of transmitting the content of the faith between generations. Also arrange, and distribute through the means of social communication, aids that allow an adult of the family to explain to the little ones the mystagogy of the rites that under normal conditions would be celebrated in the church with the assembly present.

– The riches of the Paschal celebrations, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, can also be valorised by suggesting that part of them be prayed at home and in families, with the aids to participation that are usually made available in each community every year.

– Priests who cannot celebrate the liturgy on their own pray the hours of the office, especially the psalms and those prayers that do not require a response from the choir and the faithful.

– On Holy Thursday, in the liturgical celebration of the morning, some Churches sui iuris celebrate the consecration of the Holy Myron. This celebration, not being linked in the East to this day, can be moved to another date.

– On Good Friday, encourage use – alone or with the family – of the precious texts that the oriental traditions present on this day for prayer around the Cross and the tomb of Christ.

– On the night of Pascha, families may be invited, where possible through the festive sound of the bells, to gather to read the Gospel of the Resurrection, lighting a lamp and singing some troparion or songs typical of their tradition that the faithful often know by memory.

Any baptisms scheduled for Easter are postponed to another date.

The provisions issued by the March 19 decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary remain valid. Since many faithful are accustomed to confessing in the period before Easter, where it is not possible to do so, let pastors indicate to the faithful the recitation of some of the rich penitential prayers from the oriental tradition, to be recited with a spirit of contrition.

Sincerely yours, ✠ Leonardo Card. Sandri Prefetto

Fr. Flavio Pace Sotto-Segretario