Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come, let us adore him.
Or: O that today you would listen to his voice: harden not your hearts.
Year: A(I). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: Violet.
Our Lady of Sorrows
In Malta and in many other Mediterranean countries, the Holy Week devotions start with processions of veneration in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows. This is a Marian veneration that flourished in the Middle Ages.
The official commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows is on 15 September, the day after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. That is a logical and sound date, which is why the Church has put it there.
In fact, the Church has moved Our Lady of Sorrows out of Lent repeatedly, and the people have repeatedly put it back again. Celebrating the commemoration on the Friday before Palm Sunday fits perfectly with the sorrowful aspect of Lent and makes an apprporiate introduction to Holy Week. Vox populi, vox Dei. In both Malta and Gozo, it is the diocesan bishops themselves who lead the Marian devotions today.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (462/7 - 527/ 533)
Fulgentius was bishop of the city of Ruspe in the Roman province of Africa, which is in modern-day Tunisia. At that time Africa and parts of the Near East were ruled by the Vandals, who were Arians, calling themselves Christians but denying the divinity of Christ. As a result Fulgentius’ early career was marked by a series of flights from persecution, as Catholics tried to maintain their faith under Vandal rule. It was a complicated time. In 499 he was tortured for saying that Jesus was both God and man; the next year the Vandal king Thrasamund, impressed by his talents, invited him to return from exile and become a bishop (Fulgentius declined, since he knew that Thrasamund had ordered that none but Arians should be bishops); two years later he was persuaded to become bishop of Ruspe in Tunisia but shortly afterwards he was exiled to Sardinia. Thrasamund invited him back in 515 to debate against the Arians but exiled him again in 520.
In 523, following the death of Thrasamund and the accession of his Catholic son Hilderic, Fulgentius was allowed to return to Ruspe and try to convert the populace back to the faith. He worked to reform many of the abuses which had infiltrated his old diocese in his absence. The power and effectiveness of his preaching were so profound that his archbishop, Boniface of Carthage, wept openly every time he heard Fulgentius preach, and publicly thanked God for giving such a preacher to his church.
Liturgical colour: violet
Violet is a dark colour, ‘the gloomy cast of the mortified, denoting affliction and melancholy’. Liturgically, it is the colour of Advent and Lent, the seasons of penance and preparation.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Isaiah 53:2-3 ©|
Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground. Without beauty, without majesty (we saw him), no looks to attract our eyes; a thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces; he was despised and we took no account of him.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Isaiah 53:4-5 ©|
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried. But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God, and brought low. Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Isaiah 53:6-7 ©|
We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us. Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.