The Moon over Passover and Easter

Passover Moon over Belmont, MA 4/7/20

Why do the dates for Passover and Easter change each year?  It's all on account of the moon!

Passover, the holiday commemorating the Hebrews' exodus from slavery in Egypt, begins on the evening of the 15th day of Nisan, the seventh month on the Jewish lunar calendar. Passover begins this year on Wednesday, April 8.

For Jews and Christians alike, it's the moon that determines the dates of the great religious celebrations of Passover and Easter.

Determining the date for Passover:
The Jewish lunar calendar year begins in late September or early October with the celebration of Rosh Hashana.  The new moon marks the beginning of each month with the full moon occurring halfway through the month. The seventh month in a normal Jewish calendar year is the month of Nisan. Passover is celebrated on the 15th day of Nisan at the time of the full moon (this year at 2:35 a.m. on April 8)
Determining the date for Easter (Western Church):
Easter is observed on the first Sunday following the full moon that comes on or after the vernal equinox (March 21). This year's Passover celebration begins on April 8 and concludes on April 15 and this year Easter is celebrated on Sunday, April 12.

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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY of Holy Week 4/8

Image source

Today is Wednesday of Holy Week, sometimes called Spy Wednesday because the day's gospel tells how Judas (the "spy") conspired to betray Christ and hand him over to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver.

Today's longer-than-usual daily post includes a scripture, a brief reflection, a song (powerful and haunting - not to be missed!) a regular Pause for Prayer and yet another song, this one consoling and compassionate...  I hope you'll spend a few extra minutes with this post - but of course you can also scroll right down to today's prayer.

Here's the scripture for Spy Wednesday:
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over...

When it was evening, Jesus reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”  Matthew 26:14

A few questions for Spy Wednesday... 

How has betrayal played out in my life?
Have I ever been betrayed?
Have I betrayed another?
What wound, what scars has betrayal left in my life and in the lives of those around me?   

Fr. Aidan Kavanagh used to speak of the Last Supper and Holy Thursday as "the night in which Jesus was betrayed by the worst in us all..."   That offers a good perspective on Judas' betrayal of Jesus.  It's easy to point the finger at Judas - but not so easy to accuse myself.  On the night Christ was betrayed, Judas stood in for all of us who have betrayed God's love and our neighbor's love.  Innocent and without sin, Jesus then carried on his shoulders and suffered in his wounds the burden of our infidelities, our betrayals... 

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us!  
Here's a very contemporary setting of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) by Rufus Wainwright. The opening sounds drill into our hearts and the depths of our betrayals. But that's also where God's mercy meets us: right in our sinfulness, where we most need his healing love and the gift of his peace. This song might help us imagine Judas plotting against Jesus and help us look more honestly at our own betrayals. But the wrenching music doesn't leave us in Judas' despair or our own remorse - it moves us beyond to the consolation of the One who takes our sins away, and finally, the song resolves in great peace: dona nobis pacem: give us peace...

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
    have mercy on us.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
   have mercy on us.  
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
    grant us peace.


With the light of your truth, Lord, open my heart
   and help me be honest in seeing how I've betrayed you:
how I've betrayed your love...
how I've taken you and your mercy for granted...
how I've presumed upon your forgiveness...
how I've betrayed you in thought, word and deed,
   out of loyalty to the crowd, the fad, myself...

With the light of your truth, Lord, open my heart
   and help me be honest in seeing:
how I've betrayed my family, my friends, my colleagues...
how I've betrayed those around me
   at work, at school, in my parish, in my community...
how I've betrayed the poor and hungry 
   with my greedy and wasteful ways...
how I've betrayed the truth with my lies and cheating...  
how I've betrayed my neighbor with gossip and half-truths...

With the light of your truth, Lord, open my heart
   and help me be honest in seeing how I've betrayed myself:
how I've been dishonest with and about the person 
   you made me to be...
how I've betrayed my given word, my promises, my vows...
how I've betrayed the best in me 
   by choosing the cheap and tawdry...
how I've betrayed your image within me,
   the divine image in which you created me... 

With the light of your truth, Lord, open my heart
   and help me be honest in seeing how, with Judas, 
I betray you and hand you over
   for money, for prestige, in fear, out of pride,
      in selfishness and presumption,
and in my vain, self-serving efforts 
      to win the praise of others...

Help me forgive those who have betrayed me, Lord...

Forgive me my betrayals, Lord, 
   as I forgive those who have betrayed me...

Help me stand in the light of your truth, Lord, 
   acknowledging the betrayal of my sins
         and my need for your mercy and pardon...


And finally, here's another setting of the Agnus Dei
this one filled with mercy and peace,
by Samuel Barber, performed by King's College Choir 


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NIGHT PRAYER: Tuesday 4/7

It might seem like day's end is near,
that it's time to get ready for bed,
for rest and for sleep...
But for so many people, Lord, the day won't end:
it will stretch through the dark of night
as folks wrestle with anxiety
- and one thing's for sure: worry and fear
don't make for good bunkmates!

We're anxious about the virus,
we're anxious about sickness and death,
we're anxious about who's going to die,
we're anxious for our loved ones,
   especially our youth and our elders,
we're anxious for neighbors
   and for strangers 'round the world we've never met,
we're anxious for first responders and health care workers,
we're anxious about our jobs and our educations,
we're anxious for the world's economy,
   and for our own bank accounts
and we're anxious about when everything
-or anything-
will be normal again...

And we're anxious about being too anxious...

Sometimes I wonder if there's caffeine in anxiety:
they both have the same effect on our sleep!
Pope John XXIII used to pray before he went to bed:
I've done my best in serving you today, Lord. 
Now I'm going to bed. 
It's your world - take care of it!
Please, help us, Lord!

help us do the best we can in serving you each day,
especially in these days when needs are so great
and when compassion, understanding, gentleness and mercy
are so much in need... 

help us change the things we can 
   and accept the things we can't
and give us wisdom to know the difference...


help us put our fears and worries in your hands, 
trusting that you will change what we can't change,
that you'll be with us in good times and in bad,
that you'll be our guide when we lose our way,
that you'll be our strength when we're tired and weak,
and that in the end, all shall be well
and if all's not yet well,
it's not the end...

Take from our hearts all painful anxiety,
Lord, fill our hearts with your peace...

Help us do our best in serving you, Lord
and then give us good rest and sweet dreams
to rise tomorrow, sure in faith,
that all through the night you cared for the world
while we slept in the arms of your peace...

Take From My Heart by Karen Schneider Kirner and John T. Kyler
sung by the Notre Dame Folk Choir

Take from my heart, take from my heart,
take from my heart all painful anxiety.
Lord fill my heart, Lord fill my heart,
Lord fill my heart with your peace.

Lord I am yours for time and eternity,
Lord let me learn to trust in your providence.
Lord I am yours forever!

Lord I delight in your unending hope,
in your compassion and tender mercy.
Lord I am yours forever!

Lord you lead me in my darkest days
When I am weak you carry my heavy cross.
Lord I am yours forever!

Lord, fill my heart with joy as I rest in you,
Help me to serve you faithful to your word.
Lord I am yours forever!

Lord keep me steadfast, trusting in your design,
through perseverance lead me in life to you.
Lord I am yours forever!


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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 4/7

Image source

I come to you today, Lord,
with a heart in a need of gifts
that only you can give...

I need the gift of hope, Lord,
so I open my heart before you,
asking you to fill my soul
with hope that gives me courage,
courage to live the balance of this day in peace
and to face tomorrow with confidence and faith...

And I need the gift of trust, Lord,
so I open my heart before you:
help me trust that you're with me, always with me,
beside me and within me,
that you'll never walk away,
that you've always got my back...

And I need the gift of strength, Lord,
so I open my heart before you:
fill me with the strength of your love
and the power of your grace;
soften and strengthen my heart
until it beats as one with yours...

These gifts are yours to give, Lord
and I pray you'll be generous...

Fill my heart with strength, hope and trust:
that's all I ask, Lord,
that's everything I need...



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Triduum and Easter Sunday Live Stream



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NIGHT PRAYER: Monday 4/6

I'm thinking of an old hymn, Lord,
the one that begins, "Day is done..."

Well, another day is done
but I'm having some trouble, Lord,
keeping track of just what day it is!

All the days are blurring into one:
sometimes it seems that only the daily statistics change
- and sadly, not yet in the right direction...

So, help me see even now, Lord,
help me see how every day is a day you've made,
that every day is your gift to me
- like today...

Today, Lord, you broke the weather pattern
and gave me sunlight and warmth
- not bad for a Monday!

And with the blue skies came a chance
to walk out doors in the fresh air
- and I opened my windows to let some in!

And on my walk I found you'd left these on my path
- to brighten my day and quicken my hope in springtime

Thanks, Lord!  I needed those little flowers today,
I needed them to remind me that you made this day,
that you made this day for me!

And if I'm not mistaken, Lord, I heard you today.
I heard you whispering a few words in my heart:
words of encouragement, words of support,
words of strength - and even a word of hope...

And I believe you were the Whisperer, Lord
- I wasn't making that up in my imagination -
and I believe that because those whispered words
brought me a peace I couldn't find for or give myself...

So, just like the old hymn says, "Day is done.."
And that day has a name: Monday,
and April 6 was a day of your making, Lord,
a day you made for me and for all your children:
the sick and the healthy and the dying,
the first responders and care-givers,
family and friends, neighbors and strangers,
and those who stand watch through this night,
in harm's way, keeping vigil for our safety and peace...

Give us all a good night's rest, Lord,
that we wake tomorrow refreshed
and ready to discern and discover
how even in these difficult times
Tuesday will be a day you've made,
a gift for us one and all...


Day Is Done:  the Notre Dame Folk Choir

1. Day is done, but love unfailing dwells ever here.
Shadows fall, but hope prevailing, calms ev'ry fear.
Loving Father, none forsaking,
Take our hearts, of love's own making,
Watch our sleeping, guard our waking,
Be always near.

2. Dark descends, but light unending shines through our night;
You are with us, ever lending new strength to sight:
One in love, your truth confessing,
One in hope of heaven's blessing,
May we see, in love's possessing,
Love's endless light!

3. Eyes will close, but you, unsleeping, watch by our side
Death may come, in love's safekeeping still we abide.
God of love, all evil quelling
Sin forgiving, fear dispelling
Stay with us, our hearts indwelling,
This eventide.  


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Monday Morning Offering: 4/6

Image: George Mendoza

And so it has begun, Lord:
the Week we call Holy...

I've read how theologians debate 
whether any unit of time or time itself
can actually be or become holy -
but I'll leave that to the scholars, Lord,
and simply wonder about my being holy,
my growing in holiness,
especially in the week ahead...
(Why am I afraid of this word: holy?
Why am I put off by it? 
Why am I so easily convinced
that holiness may be for others - but not for me?

(I want to be strong, healthy, wise, just,
honest, fair, loving, prayerful, faithful,
kind, forgiving and compassionate - 
so why do I shy away from wanting to be holy?

(Could it be I just don't understand
what it means to be holy?
Help me understand, Lord,
especially this week,
and help me want to be holy...)
One thing I know for certain:
I could be a whole lot holier than I am right now… 

But just how holy do I want to be?

I want to be holy enough to stand before you, Lord,
without shame or embarrassment…

I want to be holy enough to know that I've helped the poor
- and generously so…

I want to be holy enough to know 
that my intentions and desires, my dreams and schemes,
are honest, pure and just...

I want to be holy enough to love you with a good heart,
cleansed of selfishness and pride…

I want to be holy enough to recognize my lack of holiness
and to ask the help of your grace
whenever and wherever I need it...

Just four days left* in Lent, Lord: 
four more days to be holy in this season of praying, fasting
and serving the needs of others...

I have four days left in Lent
to be more faithful to prayer, morning and night
- or whenever you and I can sit down 
and just have a chat, one-on-one, just the two of us, Lord... 

Four days left in Lent to deny myself 
some taste or sip, some pleasure or toy, some "whatever,"
and in doing so, begin to discover
the hunger that self-denial reveals to me,
that empty space in which to wonder 
how I might better feed and fill the void... 

Four days left in Lent to care for the poor, 
to give to the poor, to be with the poor, 
to work for the poor
- to discover how rich I am -
and learn to share my bounty
with those whose needs are so much greater
than my own...

Four days left in Lent, Lord, 
and then three days of prayer so holy 
they are but one-day-in-three, the Triduum:
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil...

Each of these days invites me
to enter the holiest of all mysteries, 
your mystery, Jesus:
the mystery of God loving me
- even though I'm not so holy... 

So, I ask you this week, Lord,
to make me at least a little more holy
than I have been...

I offer you this holy week 
and pray you keep me faithful to all it offers: 
the promise of a life, a depth, a gift of peace 
greater than all my hurts and fears... 

I offer you this week, Lord:
make me holy
day by day, one day at a time...


*Lent ends at sundown on Thursday of Holy Week. With the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, the Triduum begins, followed by the 50 days of the Easter season, ending on Pentecost Sunday.

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NIGHT PRAYER: Sunday 4/5

The sun has set on this first day of Holy Week, Lord:
our shouts of Hosanna were muted by social distancing
but we lifted our hearts to you in prayer
and pondered the story of your suffering and death...

No services in church today,
so no palm to weave into crosses tonight
but I'm grateful, Lord,
for how you weave your way into my story,
sometimes so quietly that I fail to notice:
   how faithfully you help carry my cross,
      especially when I fall beneath its weight;
   how present you are to me always,
      in my worries and troubles and fears;
   how graciously you hear my every prayer,
      be it spoken, mumbled or silent...

Weave strands of your grace through my suffering, Lord;
weave threads of hope through my doubt and despair;
weave chains of strength where I'm weak and tired;
weave your peace in my sleep and my dreams tonight...

So many, these days, live with suffering and death:
lift up the sick with healing, Lord,
strengthen those who care for them,
console those who grieve and mourn
and guide us all through this Holy Week
to a feast of Easter joy...

Be with us, Lord, as we stay awake
and watch over us as we sleep,
that awake we may keep watch with you
and asleep, rest in your peace...


Moonlight Sonata: Beethoven, performed by Lola Astanova and Hauser


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Pause for Prayer: PALM SUNDAY

Christ of St. John of the Cross - Dali

One of my favorite liturgical texts is the former Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I:  its beautiful language and rich Paschal theology stir my heart. From a presider's point of view, this text seemed to pray itself, so easily did it lend itself to proclamation.  And this is a perfect prayer for Palm Sunday, following the proclamation of the gospel of Christ's suffering and death.  Pause and Pray with these words as we begin Holy Week today...

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere
to give you thanks and praise.

You never cease to call us to a new and more abundant life.
God of love and mercy, you are always ready to forgive;
we are sinners, and you invite us to trust in your mercy.

Time and time again we broke your covenant,
but you did not abandon us.
Instead, through your Son, Jesus our Lord,
you bound yourself even more closely to the human family
by a bond that can never be broken.

Now is the time for your people to turn back to you
and to be renewed in Christ your Son,
a time of grace and reconciliation.

You invite us to serve the family of humankind
by opening our hearts to the fullness of your Holy Spirit...

Father, from the beginning of time
you have always done what is good for us
so that we may be holy as you are holy...

When we were lost and could not find the way to you,
you loved us more than ever:
Jesus, your Son, innocent and without sin,
gave himself into our hands 
and was nailed to a cross.

Yet before he stretched out his arms
between heaven and earth,
in the everlasting sign of your covenant,
he desired to celebrate the Paschal feast
in the company of his disciples.

While they were at supper,
he took bread and gave you thanks and praise.
He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my Body which will be given up for you.

At the end of the meal,
knowing that he was to reconcile all things in himself
by the blood of his cross,
he took the cup, filled with wine.

Again he gave you thanks,
handed the cup to his friends, and said:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me..

When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup 
we proclaim your death, O Lord, 
until you come in glory.

Sacrament of the Last Supper - Dali
We do this in memory of Jesus Christ,
our Passover and our lasting peace.
We celebrate his death and resurrection
and look for the coming of that day
when he will return to give us the fullness of joy...

Father, look with love on those you have called
to share in the one sacrifice of Christ.
By the power of your Holy Spirit
make them one body, healed of all division.

Keep us all in communion of mind and heart...
Help us to work together for the coming of your kingdom,
until at last we stand in your presence
to share the life of the saints,
in the company of the Virgin Mary and the apostles,
and of our departed brothers and sisters
whom we commend to your mercy.

Then, freed from every shadow of death,
we shall take our place in the new creation
and give you thanks with Christ, our risen Lord...

This text above is the version in use up until the unfortunate retranslation of the Roman Missal in 2011.


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NIGHT PRAYER: Saturday 4/4

I pray for a good night’s rest Lord,
and I pray for those who've been robbed of their sleep
by fear of impending illness,
by haunting worries and troubled dreams,
by the sounds, the fury, the menace of war,
by the heart-wrenching cries of a hungry child,
by the chill of another homeless night...

I pray you not let me take for granted, Lord:
those who stand vigil all night for my safety;
the town I live in, the home I call mine;
the bed I sleep in, comfy and warm;
the breakfast I'll have when morning dawns...

Forgive me, Lord:
for the times today I was selfish;
for hoarding instead of sharing;
for carelessly wasting what's mine,
for closing my eyes to the poor;
for taking more than my share...

Hold tight in your arms, Lord, the sick and the dying
and those who care for them all through the night...

Ride with those standing ready to roll
to come to our aid when danger strikes...

Be our beacon of hope, for in so many ways
we're all just a little afraid of the dark...

Over all of us, Lord,
spread the mantle of your protection
and cover us all in your mercy:
deliver us from every evil
and grant your peace in our day,
the peace that's yours alone to give...

Grant me deep and restful sleep, Lord,
that tomorrow I might rise to serve you
by serving the needs of my neighbor
with an open and generous heart...


Sleep Chant by Karen Drucker

Sleep in peace.   Wake in joy.    Always know that I am loved.
I sleep in peace.  I wake in joy.  I always know that I am loved.
Today I live in gratitude.  Today I give my love.
And tonight when I lay my head to rest, I give thanks, I give thanks.
Sleep in peace.  Wake in joy.  Always know that I am safe.
Sleep in peace.  Wake in joy.  Always know that I am safe.
Each day I wake is a miracle.  Each day is a precious gift.
I count my blessings and feel such grace.  I give thanks. I give thanks.

I sleep in peace.  I wake in joy.  I always know that all is well.
I sleep in peace.  I wake in joy.  I always know that all is well.

I sleep in peace.  Wake in joy.  Always know that I am loved.
Sleep in peace.    Wake in joy.  Always know that I am loved.

Sleep in peace.  Wake in joy.  Always know that I am safe.
Sleep in peace.  Wake in joy.  I always know that I am safe.

I sleep in peace.  I wake in joy.  I always know that all is well.
I sleep in peace.  I wake in joy.  I always know that all is well.


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