Ember Saturday Lent I: Statio ad St Petrum

We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers of thy people; and of thy great goodness turn aside from them the scourges of thine anger: through Our Lord…

St. Peter’s Basilica (Italian San Pietro in Vaticano) built by Constantine in 323, the basilica was erected over the place where St. Peter was buried, it is a major basilica in Vatican City, an enclave of Rome. St. Peter’s was until recently the largest church ever built (it covers an area of 23,000 m² and has a capacity of over 60,000), and it remains one of the holiest sites in Christendom.

Ancient tradition has it that St. Peter’s Basilica was built at the place where Peter, the apostle who is considered the first pope, was crucified and buried; his tomb is under the main altar. Other popes are also buried in and below the basilica. Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral – the pope’s cathedral is St. John Lateran.

“The Station is in the Basilica of Saint Peter….where the people were wont to assemble, towards evening, that they might be present at the Ordination of the Priests and Sacred Ministers. This day was called ‘Twelve-Lesson-Saturday’ because formerly, twelve passages from the Holy Scriptures used to be read, as upon Holy Saturday.”

This Ordination Mass was celebrated during the night; so that Sunday had begun by the time it was over. Later it was celebrated early on Saturdy, “as we now have it; but, in memory of the ancient practice, the Gospel for Saturday is repeated on Sunday.”

This Gospel is Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration. By 1962 the 12 lessons had been reduced to four but the Gospel remained the same and was still repeated on the Second Sunday of Lent. The OF has suppressed the extra lessons for this day altogether and a different Gospel is in place. However, the Transfiguration accounts are present in both year A (Matthew) and B (Mark). Therefore, whichever form of the Mass you attend tomorrow, today’s comments by Dom Gueranger explain why the Church chose the Matthew text in the first place.

“The Church would have us think upon the sublime dignity which has been conferred upon the newly ordained Priests. They are represented by the three Apostles, who were taken by Jesus to the high mountain, and favoured with the sight of his glory.”

The newly ordained “…will in like manner… enter into the cloud with the Lord. They will offer up the Sacrifice of your salvation in the silence of the sacred Canon. God will descend into their hands, for your sakes; and though they are mortals and sinners, yet will they, each day, be in closest communication with the Divinity.”

“The forgiveness of your sins… is to come to you through their hands; their superhuman power will bring it down from heaven upon your souls. It is thus that God has cured our pride… His own Eternal Son became Man, and he left other men after him to whom he said: ‘As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ Let us, then, show honour to these men, who have this very day, been raised to so high a dignity. One of the duties imposed on us by our holy Religion, is respect to the Priesthood.”

May Thy faithful draw strength from the blessing they desire, O God; may it keep them from ever conflicting with Thy will and allow them to rejeoice in They continued favours: through Our Lord…