Today Is Wednesday in Holy Week, or Spy Wednesday.
Today and during the Sacred Triduum, the Matins and Lauds of the Divine Office are often sung in a haunting service known as the Tenebrae service (“tenebrae” meaning “shadows”), which is basically a funeral service for Jesus. During the Matins on Good Friday, one by one, the candles are extinguished in the Church, leaving the congregation in total darkness, and in a silence that is punctuated by the strepitus meant to evoke the convulsion of nature at the death of Christ. It has also been described as the sound of the tomb door closing. During the Triduum, the Matins and Lauds readings come from the following day’s readings each night because the hours of Matins and Lauds were pushed back so that the public might better participate during these special three days (i.e., the Matins and Lauds readings heard at Spy Wednesday’s tenebrae service are those for Maundy Thursday, the readings for Maundy Thursday’s tenebrae service are from Good Friday, and Good Friday’s readings are from Holy Saturday’s Divine Office). (1)
by Dom Prosper Gueranger 1870
The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people, are met today, in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon Him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers, who have received a favourable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days back? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in His defence? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over, before apprehending Jesus.
But these blood-thirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees,–which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world’s salvation,–have fixed this very year’s Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, tomorrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus’ Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God, because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner, by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one.
But how are Jesus’ enemies to get possession of their divine Victim, so as to avoid a disturbance in the City? There is only one plan that could succeed, and they have not thought of it: it is treachery. Just at the close of their deliberations, they are told that one of Jesus’ Disciples seeks admission. They admit him, and he says to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you (St. Matth. xxvi. 15.)? They are delighted at this proposition: and yet, how is it, that they, doctors of the law, forget that this infamous bargain between themselves and Judas has all been foretold by David, in the 108th Psalm? They know the Scriptures from beginning to end;–how comes it, that they forget the words of the Prophet, who even mentions the sum of thirty pieces of silver (Idem, xxvii. 9. Zach. xi. 12.). Judas asks them what they will give him; and they give him thirty pieces of silver! All is arranged: tomorrow, Jesus will be in Jerusalem, eating the Pasch with his Disciples. In the evening, He will go, as usual, to the Garden on Mount Olivet. But how shall they, who are sent to seize Him, be able to distinguish Him from his Disciples? Judas will lead the way; he will show them which is Jesus, by going up to him and kissing him!
Such is the impious scheme devised on this day, within the precincts of the Temple of Jerusalem. To testify her detestation at it, and to make atonement to the Son of God for the outrage thus offered him, the Holy Church, from the earliest ages, consecrated the Wednesday of every week to penance. In our own times, the Fast of Lent begins on a Wednesday; and when the Church ordained that we should commence each of the four Seasons of the year with Fasting, Wednesday was chosen to be one of the three days thus consecrated to bodily mortification.
On this day, in the Roman Church, was held the sixth Scrutiny, for the admission of Catechumens to Baptism. Those, upon whom there had been previous doubts, were now added to the number of the chosen ones, if they were found worthy. There were two Lessons read in the Mass, as on the day of the great Scrutiny, the Wednesday of the fourth Week of Lent. As usual, the Catechumens left the Church, after the Gospel; but, as soon as the Holy Sacrifice was over, they were brought back by the Door-Keeper, and one of the Priests addressed them in these words: “On Saturday next, the Eve of Easter, at such an hour, you will assemble in the Lateran Basilica, for the seventh Scrutiny; you will then recite the Symbol, which you must have learned; and lastly, you will receive, by God’s help, the sacred laver of regeneration. Prepare yourselves, zealously and humbly, by persevering fasts and prayers, in order that, having been buried, by this holy Baptism, together with Jesus Christ, you may rise again with Him, unto life everlasting. Amen.”
At Rome, the Station for today is in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Let us compassionate with our Holy Mother, whose Heart is filled with poignant grief at the foresight of the Sacrifice, which is preparing.
How terrible is this our Defender, Who tramples His enemies beneath His feet, as they that tread in the wine-press; so that their blood is sprinkled upon his garments! But is not this the fittest time for us to proclaim His power, now that He is being treated with ignominy, and sold to His enemies by one of His Disciples? These humiliations will soon pass away; He will rise in glory, and His might will be shown by the chastisements, wherewith He will crush them that now persecute Him. Jerusalem will stone them that shall preach in His name; she will be a cruel step-mother to those true Israelites, who, docile to the teaching of the Prophets, have recognized Jesus as the promised Messias. The Synagogue will seek to stifle the Church in her infancy; but no sooner shall the Church, shaking the dust from her feet, turn from Jerusalem to the Gentiles, than the vengeance of Christ will fall on the City, which bought, betrayed, and crucified Him. Her citizens will have to pay dearly for these crimes. We learn from the Jewish historian, Josephus, (who was an eye-witness to the siege,) that the fire which was raging in one of the streets, was quenched by the torrents of their blood. Thus were fulfilled the threats pronounced by our Lord against this faithless City, as He sat on Mount Olivet, the day after His triumphant Entry.
And yet, the destruction of Jerusalem was but a faint image of the terrible destruction which is to befal the world at the last day. Jesus, Who is now despised and insulted by sinners, will then appear on the clouds of heaven, and reparation will be made for all these outrages. Now He suffers Himself to be betrayed, scoffed at, and spit upon; but, when the day of vengeance is come, happy they that have served Him, and have compassionated with Him in His humiliations and sufferings! Wo to them, that have treated Him with contempt! Wo to them, who not content with their own refusing to bear His yoke, have led others to rebel against Him! For He is King; He came into this world that He might reign over it; and they that despise His Mercy, shall not escape his Justice. (2)
Image: The kiss of Judas Iscariot, coloured engraving, from the Heures de Charles d’Angoulême, f. 357, (15th century) (4)
Research by REGINA Staff