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On this memorable edition of Cathedral Square, Fr. Christopher Smith shares the Gospel readings for Palm Sunday and Holy Week. He then offers reflections that will both challenge and bless you.

In addition, you will hear glorious music weaved throughout the program (The Lamb of God by Rob Gardner).

Our prayer is that this program will greatly enrich your Holy Week experience.

Listen, and SHARE!







Original broadcast on 3/27/21


WASHINGTON (CNS) — Ash Wednesday is March 6 this year. Here are some things to know about Ash Wednesday and the kickoff to Lent:

In the Table of Liturgical Days, which ranks the different liturgical celebrations and seasons, Ash Wednesday ties for second in ranking — along with Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter, and a few others. But Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, though it is a day of prayer, abstinence, fasting and repentance.

Top ranked in the table are the Paschal Triduum — the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil — along with Easter Sunday. Good Friday isn’t a holy day of obligation either, but Catholics are encouraged to attend church for a liturgy commemorating Christ’s crucifixion and death.

Ash Wednesday begins the liturgical season of Lent. There are hymns that speak to the length of the season — one of them is “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” — but the span between March 6 and Easter Sunday, which is April 21, is 46 days. So what gives?

“It might be more accurate to say that there is the ’40-day fast within Lent,'” said Father Randy Stice, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship.

“Historically, Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days,” Father Stice said in an email to Catholic News Service. “The 40-day fast, however, has been more stable. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the time of Lent, but they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence.” There are six Sundays in Lent, including Passion Sunday.

The ashes used for Ash Wednesday are made from the burned and blessed palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday.

“The palms are burned in a metal vessel and then broken down into a powder. I believe ashes can also be purchased from Catholic supply companies,” Father Stice said.

“As far as I know, palms from the previous year are always dry enough,” he added. “Parishes normally ask parishioners to bring their palms shortly before Ash Wednesday, so there is no need to store them. People usually like to keep the blessed palm as long as possible.”

Almost half of adult Catholics, 45 percent, typically receive ashes at Ash Wednesday services, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

You might not have noticed, but the use of the word “Alleluia” is verboten during Lent. What is known as the “Alleluia verse” preceding the Gospel becomes known during Lent as “the verse before the Gospel,” with a variety of possible phrases to be used — none of which include an alleluia.

“The alleluia was known for its melodic richness and in the early church was considered to ornament the liturgy in a special way,” Father Stice said, adding it was banned from Lenten Masses in the fifth or sixth century.

Ash Wednesday also is a day of abstinence and fasting; Good Friday is another. Abstinence means refraining from eating meat; fish is OK. Fasting means reducing one’s intake of food, like eating two small meals that together would not equal one full meal.

“Fasting during Lent followed the example of Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness. It also recalled the 40 days that Moses fasted on Sinai and the 40 days that Elijah fasted on his journey to Mount Horeb,” Father Stice said.

“In the second century, Christians prepared for the feast of Easter with a two-day fast. This was extended to all of Holy Week in the third century. In 325 the Council of Nicea spoke of a 40-day period of preparation for Easter as something already obvious and familiar to all.”

The U.S. Catholic Church’s Collection for Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is taken up on Ash Wednesday, as it has been since its inception in the early 1990s.


Episode 32   March 24,  2018 Christ Cathedral Musicians, Dr. John Romeri, Director of Music, and David L. Ball, Assistant Director and Organist, present a special MUSIC FROM THE TOWER with the great music for Palm Sunday and Holy Week.


MUSIC: Hosanna filio David Opening Gregorian Chant for Palm Sunday   “Hosanna to the Son of David”

MUSIC: Christus Factus Est   Gregorian Chant based upon the second reading of Palm Sunday Philippians 2: 8 – 9

MUSIC: Christus Factus Est   choral settings by Felice Anerio and Anton Bruckner   “Christ became obedient for us, even unto death”

MUSIC: Mandatum by Peter Latona   a musical setting for the washing of feet “Faith, Hope and Love, the greatest of these is Love”

MUSIC: Ubi Caritas   the Offertory Antiphon for Holy Thursday choral settings by Maurice Duruflé, Paul Mealor and Ola Gjeilo “Where charity and love prevail, God is there”

MUSIC: Ave Verum by William Byrd   a communion motet for Holy Thursday   “Hail the ture body, born of the Virgin Mary”

MUSIC: Pange Lingua   Gregorian Chant for the transfer of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday evening “Sing my Tongu, the Savior’s glory”

MUSIC: In Monte Oliveti Anton Bruckner   Motet for the stripping of the altar on Holy Thursday   “On the Mount of Olives, he prayed to the Father”

MUSIC: Miserere Mei Gregorio Allegri   The final psalm (Ps 51) of Tenebrae on Holy Thursday   “Have mercy upon me, O God”

MUSIC: Popule Meus by Tomas Luis de Vittoria   For the veneration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday “Oh my people, what have I done to you”

MUSIC: Faithful Cross by Leo Nestor For the veneration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday

MUSIC: Salvator Mundi by Thomas Tallis “O Savior of the World, save us all”

MUSIC:   Vinea mea electa by Francis Poulenc   “O vineyard, my chosen one! I planted you: how are you changed from sweet to bitter, to have crucified me and released Barrabas?”

MUSIC: O Sacred Head   by Johannes Brahms   Karl Richter, organist


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Jesus does not ask that people only contemplate his image, but that they also recognize and love him concretely in all people who suffer like he did, Pope Francis said.

Jesus is “present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own — they suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases. They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike,” the pope said April 9 as he celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass of the Lord’s Passion.

In his noon Angelus address, the pope also decried recent terrorist attacks in Sweden and Egypt, calling on “those who sow terror, violence and death,” including arms’ manufacturers and dealers, to change their ways.

In his prayers for those affected by the attacks, the pope also expressed his deepest condolences to “my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Tawadros, the Coptic church and the entire beloved Egyptian nation,” which the pope was scheduled to visit April 28-29.

At least 15 people were killed and dozens more injured April 9 in an Orthodox church north of Cairo as Coptic Christians gathered for Palm Sunday Mass; the attack in Sweden occurred two days earlier when a truck ran through a crowd outside a busy department store in central Stockholm, killing four and injuring 15 others.

The pope also prayed for all people affected by war, which he called, a “disgrace of humanity.”

Tens of thousands of people carrying palms and olive branches joined the pope during a solemn procession in St. Peter’s Square under a bright, warm sun for the beginning of Holy Week.

The pope, cardinal and bishops were dressed in red vestments, the color of the Passion, and carried large “palmurelli,” bleached and intricately woven and braided palm branches. Hundreds of young people led the procession into St. Peter’s Square and later, youths from Poland handed the World Youth Day cross to young representatives from Panama, where the next international gathering will be held in January in 2019.

In his homily, the pope said that the day’s celebration was “bittersweet.”

“It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time” because the Mass celebrates the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem as the people and disciples acclaim him as king, and yet, the Gospel gives the account of his passion and death on the cross.

Jesus accepts the hosannas coming from of the crowd, but he “knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry, ‘Crucify him!'” the pope said.

Jesus “does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs or in the videos that circulate on the internet,” but to recognize that he is present in those who suffer today, including “women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded.”

“Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved,” the pope said.

We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.

Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem as the true Messiah, who is a servant of God and humanity, the pope said. He is not a dreamer peddling illusions, a “new age” prophet or con man; he takes on the sins and sufferings of humanity with his passion.

Jesus never promised honor and success would come to those who follow him, rather, the path to final victory requires picking up the cross and carrying it every day, Pope Francis said.

“Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily,” he said.