The Stational Church
It is a curious fact of liturgical history that originally the Second Sunday of Lent had no Mass of its own. The Roman clergy and people were tired from the long night vigil that began on the evening of Ember Saturday and ended at dawn with the Holy Sacrifice. Only when the solemn night vigil was pushed back to Saturday morning did it become necessary to put together a separate Mass for Sunday morning.
In Rome, the stational church is Saint Mary in Domnica, originally a Roman deaconry, that is, a dispensary for the poor. For us, this means, that today’s Mass is a kind of pilgrimage in honour of the holy Mother of God, the Virgin of the Poor, who accompanies us throughout the Lenten journey. Our Lady is the dispensatrix of the graces of God: divinarum gratiarum primaria dispensatrix. We enter today’s Holy Mass, then, as poor people enter a dispensary to wash, to find warmth, and to receive food, medicine, clothing, and shelter. It is the Mother of God herself who presides over this dispensary and she, being the humble handmaid of the Lord, places herself at the service of all who come seeking relief, for she «receives all guests who come like Christ Himself» (RSB 53).
In the background of today’s Holy Mass stands the holy patriarch Jacob. The lessons and responsories of Matins were all about him and, during Lent, it is Matins that provide the background and preparation for Holy Mass. Jacob is not mentioned by name in the Mass texts, but they reveal to us the prayers and aspirations of his noble soul. In the Introit we said, «Remember, O Lord, Thy bowels of compassion, and Thy mercies that are from the beginning of the world, lest at any time our enemies rule over us» (Psalm 24). And then the great cry by which we began the liturgical year on the First Sunday of Advent returns with an even greater vehemence: Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam. «To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul» (Psalm 24).