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Funeral Rites in Holy Week?
Q. My father died on Holy Thursday a few years ago. We had to wait till Easter Monday so that we could have a Christian burial. Now, my aunts and uncles knew that during Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday he couldn't be buried; the Church doesn’t bury anyone during this time. But they couldn't tell us why. Can you?
S.R., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Your father could have been buried with a funeral liturgy, but not with a funeral Mass, on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday, because the liturgy does not provide for it.
The only Masses allowed on Holy Thursday are the Chrism Mass in the morning and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the evening. No Mass can ever be celebrated on Good Friday; the only service allowed is the Lord’s Passion. Likewise, no Mass is celebrated on Holy Saturday because the entire Church is preparing for the Easter Vigil, which begins at sunset. Easter Sunday, the most important celebration of the year, focuses our attention on the Resurrection.
Nevertheless, a funeral rite on those days could make use of a Liturgy of the Word and the farewell rite as presented in the “Order of Christian Funerals” (part 1, no. 4).
Who Was Julian of Norwich?
Q. Who was Julian of Norwich, and is she a saint?
N.N., via email
A. Julian (also known as Juliana) of Norwich (c. 1342-1423) is often called “Blessed,” but the Church has never formally confirmed this title. We know little about her life before she became an anchorite outside the walls of St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England.
In 1373, while in a state of ecstasy and suffering from a severe illness, she received a series of sixteen “showings” (or “revelations”), which centered on Christ’s passion and the Blessed Trinity. She spent the following twenty years meditating on them, writing her thoughts in a book called Revelations of Divine Love. It ranges over many spiritual subjects: the love of God, the Incarnation, redemption, sin, penance, and divine consolations. It may well have been the first book ever written by a woman in the English language.
Julian was one of the greatest of English mystics. By the time she died, she had an international reputation for holiness. Visitors from all over Europe came to visit her in her little cell. Her book is an extremely important surviving work from England of that period, and numerous scholars have carefully studied it.
Perhaps the most often-quoted “consolation” from her writings is a brief comment to her from the Lord: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Who Gave the Gospels Their Ordering?
Q. At Mass recently, our priest stated that Mark was the oldest (the first written) of the Gospels. That started me thinking. Why don’t the Gospels appear in the Bible in chronological order? Who decided in what order they should be placed in the Bible?
M.M., Gurley, Ala.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
The early Church established the order in which the Gospels appear in the Bible. It was the consensus of all the Fathers of the Church that Matthew is the oldest gospel.
Nevertheless, during the last century and a half or so, the majority of Scripture scholars have concluded that Mark is the earliest Gospel. Mark is commonly regarded as a protégé of St. Peter, and his Gospel as a memoir of St. Peter. Matthew and Luke, so the conventional wisdom goes, relied on Mark and other sources in writing their Gospels.
This conclusion is itself an opinion that probably can never be clearly demonstrated. Some Catholic and Protestant scholars have suggested that the belief in Marcan priority also has an ideological component — more specifically, an anti-Catholic bias.
The biased opinion goes like this: Mark is the earliest Gospel. It says nothing about Jesus’ commission to Peter recorded in Matthew 16:13-19. Therefore, the story of that commission must be a later addition and not historically reliable.
The majority of scholars, however, both Catholic and Protestant, accept the Matthew 16 passage as an authentic part of the early Gospel.
The “Devil’s Interval”?
Q. I recently heard the musical term “the Devil’s Interval.” Can you tell me what that is, and why it has that name?
J.L., via email
A. Hmmm … we seem to be getting all the “devil” questions this week!
Without getting too much into the arcane technicalities of musical theory, the “Devil’s Interval” (also nicknamed the diabolus in musica) is a tritone — that is, a musical interval that spans three whole tones. It may also be called an augmented fourth or a diminished fifth.
To hear how one sounds, go from F to B in the key of C major. Or recall the interval between the first two notes in the song Maria from the Broadway musical West Side Story. The sound is dissonant and ethereal, so it seemed to many minds in earlier centuries to be sensual and even diabolical. It could not be used in the composition of Gregorian chant and was usually avoided in other forms of medieval music.
With the rise of the Baroque movement, however, the tritone gained more widespread acceptance by composers. Even then it was used only in certain limited ways. But later, Romantic composers came to employ it freely, making use of its “evil” connotations. Liszt, for example, used the interval to suggest hell in his Dante Sonata; Wagner’s Götterdämmerung has it in a scene depicting pagan excesses.
The “Devil’s Interval” is frequently found in today’s music, especially jazz and heavy metal. It appears prominently (and not surprisingly) in Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and Black Sabbath’s signature song. You’ll often encounter it as well in the musical score of a horror film to evoke a feeling of dread or foreboding. Several contemporary secular bands have used the name for themselves or for their compositions.
Dreams From the Devil?
Q. Can the devil torment you in your dreams?
D.T., via email
A. I don’t know that the Church has ever given a definitive answer to that question. We do know from precedents in Scripture that angels can appear to people in their dreams, sent by God. The most famous examples of that occurrence, of course, are St. Joseph’s dreams, which instructed him how to care for Mary and Jesus (see Mt 1:21-24; 2:13). Since demons are fallen angels, perhaps they have retained the power, even after their fall from grace, to influence our dreams in some way.
The great medieval theologian St. Thomas Aquinas took this position. In his great work the Summa Theologiae, he wrote that “dreams may be caused by spiritual agents, such as God, directly, or indirectly through his angels, and the devil” (II-I:95:6). He also warned that demons may communicate in dreams to those who have sought dealings with them.
A thirteenth-century collection of stories about St. Dominic, which claims to be based on information from the saints’ companions, tells how Dominic once encountered the devil prowling around the convent. When the saint asked him what kind of mischief he accomplished in the dormitory, the demon replied: “I keep the brethren from enjoying their rest, and then tempt them not to rise for matins, and when this does not work, I send them foul dreams and illusions.”
The story may be only a legend, but it at least reflects, presumably, a popular belief that the devil could trouble people through dreams. We might note as well that the sixth-century Pope St. Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues (II, 8), says of St. Benedict: “The old enemy of mankind [that is, the devil], not taking this in good spirit, presented himself to the eyes of that holy father, not privately or in a dream, but in open sight.” The implication here seems to be that the devil was known to appear in dreams.
Even so, I don’t think you should automatically assume that a bad dream, even a terrible nightmare, has a supernatural cause. Psychologists who study dreams have confirmed what common sense suggests: Most dreams appear to have very natural origins in our personal experience; they are often attempts by the subconscious mind to work through issues of one sort or another.
If you feel tormented by dreams, I would suggest that you seek help from your priest, spiritual director, or other trusted counselor.
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