Gospel reading for Wednesday, 31st March

Matthew 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ ‘Go to so-and-so in the city’ he replied ‘and say to him, “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.”’ The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’

Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ ‘They are your own words’ answered Jesus.


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2017, Allen Morris. Detail of Stained Glass, Chester Cathedral.

Gospel reading for Tuesday, 30th March

John 13:21-33,36-38

While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant.

The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’ ‘It is the one’ replied Jesus ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out.

Night had fallen.

When he had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.
‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
And, as I told the Jews,
where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2017, Allen Morris. Detail of carving of sacred meal. Exhibited in Museum of La Vieille Charite, Marseille. .

Gospel reading for Monday, 29th March

John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2017, Allen Morris. Detail of stained glass window. St Matthew’s Church, Walsall.

Gospel reading for Sunday, 28th March

The following is the text of the Passion according to St Mark as it is to be proclaimed this Sunday in England and Wales.

The Passion according to St Mark

First thing in the morning, the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

Jesus answered , ‘It is you who say it.’

And the chief priests brought many accusations against him.

Pilate questioned him again, ‘Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you! But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.

At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them,anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate the customary favour, Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?’ For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead.

Then Pilate spoke again. ‘But in that case, what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?’

They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’

Pilate asked them, ‘Why? What harm has he done?’

But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’

So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together.

They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’

They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes. They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull. They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charge against him read: ’The King of the Jews’. And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’

The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. They said,‘He saved others, he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’

Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.

When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour and at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ This means ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah .’

Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying, ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’

But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

All kneel and pause in prayer.

And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.’


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2003, Allen Morris. Detail of external carvings, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain.

The Art of Celebration IV: The Penitential Act

Mass begins with our assembling together, and with the entrance procession and its song. Then comes the Sign of the Cross and the Greeting.

There may also follow some very brief introduction to the Mass of the day. These might usefully engage us with both the day we experience together and the Mass we are now celebrating. What is best to avoid is something which is a duplicate greeting, especially a second greeting that lacks the gravitas and beauty of the first.

If the priest and congregation have already greeted one another in words such as

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all.

And with your spirit.

to then go into

Good morning everyone,
Good morning, father.

not only seems redundant and lesser, it immediately leaves God out of things!

We can be much better helped into our celebration together if the greeting is followed by some acknowledgement of  the circumstances of our gathering (perhaps some important news event, perhaps something of the saint of feast day), and maybe to allude to a key theme in one of the readings, or from the Eucharistic Prayer chosen.

This is generally followed by the Penitential Act, with its own introduction provided – calling us to ‘acknowledge’ our sins and so as to be prepared for our celebration.

Brothers and sisters,
let us acknowledge our sins,
and so prepare ourselves to celebration the sacred mysteries.

The current English translation that gives us ‘so prepare ourselves’, clumsily overlooks the various things we have surely already done that we might be prepared to celebrate. The Latin lying behind the translation more accurately speaks of our being ready and prepared, able and apt from what we are to do.

It is helpful to notice the use of the word ‘acknowledge’ in the introduction. We come together as sinners – there is no getting away from that. And neither should we seek to get away from that, so we do, simply, acknowledge our being sinners – but not only ‘sinners’

Pope Francis engaged with the more when he chose at his motto, a phrase from a homily of the Venerable Bede – a phrase that might be rendered ‘sinners but chosen.’

We have come together as brothers and sisters in Christ, sinners who have been chosenand are being saved from our sin. Our celebration of the Penitential Act needs to do justice to both those things – our sinfulness and our being saved.

I said above that the Greeting and Introduction are generally followed by the Penitential Act. Let me briefly note when something else will replace it. First to note is the optional Asperges rite, which may be used on Sundays, and especially in Easter Time, blessing and sprinkling water as a reminder of Baptism. This will be the subject of another mini-essay in a few weeks time. Also it may be replaced by another rite particular to a particular celebration, for example the Procession or Solemn Entrance of Palm Sunday; or the occasional Rite of acceptance of Catechumens.

Back to the Penitential Act!

It is worth noting that the Penitential Act which we celebrate at Mass is a new rite, introduced to the Order of Mass following Vatican II, replacing what was a private rite of preparation for the priest and ministers. Now it is a properly communal  rite.

The Penitential Act is provided in three forms; first, the Confiteor; second, a brief responsory; and third, what might most helpfully be described as a Litany of Mercy. Each is followed by an absolution spoken by the priest and then by the Kyrie Eleison, except in the third case where the Kyrie is incorporated into the Litany itself.

Those preparing for a particular celebration of the Mass do well to note that there are choices to be made here. Which form is most appropriate to the particular occasion; to its place in the broader context of the seasons of the Liturgical Year; to the congregation and its needs.

There is plenty of room for different decisions to be made as to which form to use and when but a sensible general plan (pretty much as commended in our Bishops’ Conference, Celebrating the Mass) is to use the Confiteor in Lent; the responsory form during Ordinary Time, and the Litany of Mercy during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Easter.

The Confiteor most firmly expresses the seriousness of our sin (greatly sinned/most grievous fault); and its all-pervasiveness (I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do. It also achieves a happy marriage of individual and communal dimensions of confession and of intercession – I confess but to God and to my brothers and sisters (which brothers and sisters are also confessing to me and each other); and we together ask for prayer from Our Lady, the Angels and Saints, and each other. A lot is happening in these few words.

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
         And, striking their breast, they say:
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
         Then they continue:
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

The brief responsory is, well, briefer. The same ‘notes’ are there, but expressed less vigorously or fulsomely.

The Priest says:
Have mercy on us, O Lord.
         The people reply:
For we have sinned against you.

         The Priest:
Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
         The people:
And grant us your salvation.

The third form of the Penitential Act is the one that most commonly misused. The Missal provides us with a Litany of Mercy.

         The Priest:
You were sent to heal the contrite of heart:
Lord, have mercy.       Or:    Kyrie, eleison.
         The people reply:
Lord, have mercy.       Or:    Kyrie, eleison.

         The Priest:
You came to call sinners:
Christ, have mercy.     Or:    Christe, eleison.
         The people:
Christ, have mercy.     Or: Christe, eleison.

         The Priest:
You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us:
Lord, have mercy.       Or:    Kyrie, eleison.
         The people:
Lord, have mercy.       Or:    Kyrie, eleison.

However it is not uncommon to hear instead a Litany of Faults!

For the times we have turned from our neighbour’s need…
For the times we have gossiped…
For the times we have not paid proper attention to what the Missal asks us to do…

The Litany of Mercy allows us to ask afresh for mercy, but it is principally a confession of acts of the Lord’s saving love.

The edition of the Roman Missal for use in England and Wales useful includes an Appendix of additional sample invocations for the Litany of Mercy which can be used in place of the sample text included in the Order of Mass. Useful, if you easily have access to a Missal! But here they are as a downloadable PDF. Each one a helpful remembrance of the saving love of God, not one a direct reminder of our faults.

I end this mini essay with consideration of the absolution spoken by the priest:

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal rather perfunctorily observes:

The rite concludes with the Priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance. (GIRM 51)

The absolution in the Sacrament of Penance confers forgiveness of sin. The absolution in the Penitential Act is different. In the Penitential Act we acknowledge our sin and engage with it afresh. So, in the Penitential Act, we also acknowledge God’s mercy and the salvation shared with us, in Baptism, in the Sacrament of Penance, in so many different ways, always for our benefit, and now once more to be received through the Eucharist, itself a sacrament of Reconciliation.

The absolution in the Sacrament of Penance neither petitions for forgiveness, nor is it authoritative declaration of new forgiveness, but it is a confident and encouraging statement of our hope in God’s ever-lasting mercy.

Thus reassured, on most Sundays of the year, the Church continues its prayer by singing its praise of God in the Gloria – the theme of our next mini-essay.

A log with links to previous postings in this series is kept here.


~ Excerpts from the English translation and chants of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.
~ Commentary: (c) 2021, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: (c) 2018, Allen Morris. Detail of Fresco of people at prayer from Caesarea Maritima, Israel. Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Gospel reading for Saturday, 27th March

John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’

One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2019, Allen Morris. Graffiti, Manchester.

Gospel reading for Friday, 26th March

John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2013, Allen Morris. Detail of exhibit, Rencontres d’Arles, Arles, France.

Gospel reading for Thursday, 25th March – Feast of the Annunciation

Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’

She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’

Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’

‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’

‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2017, Allen Morris. Annunciation window, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel.

Gospel reading for Wednesday, 24th March

John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’

They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’

They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:

‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’

‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:

‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2002, Allen Morris. Christ, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

Gospel reading for Tuesday, 23rd March

John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away;
you will look for me
and you will die in your sin.
Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I have told you already:
You will die in your sins.
Yes, if you do not believe that I am He,
you will die in your sins.’

So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset.
About you I have much to say
and much to condemn;
but the one who sent me is truthful,
and what I have learnt from him
I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He
and that I do nothing of myself:
what the Father has taught me is what I preach;
he who sent me is with me,
and has not left me to myself,
for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.


  • Translation of Scriptures: The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
  • Photograph(c) 2018, Allen Morris. Carving, North Door, Bordeaux Cathedral, France..