The enthusiasm of the people reached its highest point on Palm Sunday when the multitudes joyously shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt.21:9). But alas, who would have surmised that in a few short days these admirers of the God-Man would change into a hostile mob, yelling angrily: “Let Him be crucified”.
And when the Saviour of the world was crucified on Mt. Calvary, only a small remnant stood faithfully at the foot of the Cross. In a sad statement St. John tells us: “There stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen”. All the rest were missing. And down below in the valley could be heard the blasphemies and the insults of the milling crowds.
When the Church came to dramatize in her Latin Liturgy this unique as well as prophetic scene, she used language which though simple is unmatched in its pathos: popule meus, quid feci tibi? “My people what have I done to you?” And then in the so-calledimproperia or “reproaches”, Our Lord enumerates one by one the blessings which He brought to mankind, blessings alas, which were requited only by ingratitude, insults, and even persecution.
Into these “reproaches” of the Latin Liturgy the Church has poured her most exquisite music. If it is true that Marguerite in Goetha’s Faust fainted and thereafter became a different woman after hearing the penetrating strains of the Dies Irae, it is also true that no one can hear the music of the Latin improperia on Good Friday and remain the same person.
Almost two thousand years have rolled by since those memorable events in Jerusalem. Today history is repeating itself. When, during the five years I attended the sessions of Vatican II, I saw bishops from all parts of the world converging upon Rome, I in all enthusiasm often said to myself: I am seeing the Catholic Church in all her splendor as she is poising for renewal and unprecedented growth.
Little did I then suspect that in a few short years the once admiring people would again be converted into hostile mobs, yelling savagely: “Away with Him, away with His mother, away with His Church, away with His teachings.” But the crowd is different. It is no longer the Scribes and Pharisees and the Roman soldiery. No, it is made up of ex-nuns, ex-priests, ex-seminarians, phony “experts”, and wild reformers.
The Cross of Calvary again looms against the leaden skies and from it the Victim of the world renews His gentle reproaches: “My people, what have I done to you, answer Me”.
“I have bestowed upon you my choicest blessings, but you, instead of addressing Me with your choicest language, salute Me in the vernacular with the uncouth and boorish title “the fellow,” and often accost Me with music that belongs more to the tavern than to the temple.
“I have given you my Sacrifice of the Cross to be renewed daily on the altars of your church, but you, taking your cue from the anointed traitor of the English Protestant Reformation, the apostate Archbishop Cranmer, are destroying sacred altars.
“In my boundless love I willed to dwell in your midst in the Blessed Sacrament, but you are discarding tabernacles and converting them into profane uses and toys for children, while My faithful children are wandering about in My empty temples anxiously complaining like Mary Magdalen: ‘They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.’
“I have given you the prayer of prayers, the Roman Canon of the Mass – a prayer which grew out of the teachings and sufferings of my first bishops, the Apostles, which was sealed by the blood of my martyrs in the Coliseum, which was the consolation of the Christians in the catacombs; today the impious French daily, Le Monde, sarcastically taunts me: ‘This last bastion of your Church has fallen.’
“I have asked that you let little children come to me because theirs is the kingdom of heaven, but you restrain them from the Mass, from My Sacraments, from the love of My Sacred Heart on First Fridays, from sympathizing with My sufferings through the Stations of the Cross.”
“There stood by the Cross His Mother.” St. John says that she stood – she did not faint or swoon – full of courage and confidence and reparation. She knew and saw what they were doing to her Son – as they are doing to Him today in the hootenanny and “bootlegged” Masses – but she did not leave, no, she offered all these blasphemies in reparation to God, although she could well say: “All ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.”
She is the example and hope of us, the poor banished children of Eve. When a few years ago the students of a Catholic High School were performing a Passion Play, and when they finally arrived at the scene where Judas was beside himself with despair, a little girl in the front row turned to her mother and whispered: “Now why did he not go to the Mother of Jesus?”
In this “hour of darkness”, a remnant keeps vigil at the Cross. But it will not long remain the persecuted and maligned Church of Silence. It will come forth like the first remnant, it will grow with miraculous speed and, purified, will become the Church. For truth is powerful and will prevail. “Though we walk in the midst of the shadow of death, we will fear no evils for Thou art with us.” “And if God is for us, who can be against us?” The King of history is already coming to us over the angry waves and bringing us the encouraging message: “Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom