Don’t rush veneration

Question: Our pastor uses a single crucifix for the veneration of the cross on Good Friday. He explains that this is the Church norm (which I don’t doubt). However, with the large crowd, it took 50 minutes this past Good Friday to complete the adoration. Other parishes I know use multiple crosses when there are large numbers. What are your thoughts?

John Downs, Fairfax Station, Virginia

Answer: As you have noted, the norms do specify that only one cross should be used for adoration at the Good Friday service.

The norms for the Adoration of the Holy Cross state: “Only one cross should be used for adoration. If, because of the large number of people, it is not possible for all to approach individually, the priest, after some of the clergy and faithful have adored, takes the cross and, standing in the middle before the altar, invites the people ... to adore ... and afterwards holds the cross elevated higher for a brief time, for the faithful to adore it in silence.”

The adoration of only one cross, though time consuming, makes sense. Only one cross is solemnly brought into the Church and unveiled. It is the real focus of the Good Friday service.

Thus, a pastor and congregation have a decision to make when large numbers are present. Either they are going to extend time for adoration and make it a time of meditation while all adore, or the adoration will be shortened in the way the missal describes. Adoration is accomplished in other ways than a kiss.

The 50 minutes you describe is surely long and probably required abbreviation. In less extreme cases, we ought not be in a hurry during the triduum services that are, of their nature, extended and meant to provoke deeper meditation on the sacred mysteries.

Biblical vengeance

Question: Psalm 149 in the Morning Prayer of the Church speaks of the faithful as wielding a sharp two-edged sword and dealing our vengeance to the nations. I have trouble interpreting this and wonder what it means for us.

Wally Smith, Alexandria, Louisiana

Answer: There are, in fact, many warlike images in the Scriptures in reference to the spiritual life, especially the Old Testament. Part of this is historical, since ancient times featured a lot of warfare and skirmishes. Part of it, too, is a more vigorous stance that ancient Israel took against intermixing with (or being influenced by) the nations around them. The Lord and his prophets warned that such interaction would cause them to lose the purity of their faith.

Even today, we have some notion of spiritual warfare. We do not mean such phrases literally in the sense of guns and tanks.

The ancient Jews, however, sometimes did mean these expressions literally and looked for God to help them vanquish their foes militarily. At other times, these expression are meant more spiritually.

The psalm you reference is a curious combination of praise and vengeance. Is the psalm a kind of war dance? Are the references literal or figurative? It is not clear. For us today who read it, the psalm it should be seen as psalm of praise that is meant to drive out the enemies of our joy and faith and vanquish them by the “sword” of God’s holy word (cf. Heb 4:12).

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.