ONE OF THE advantages of a faith that is millennia old is that you always discover something new. At the beginning of this Holy Week, I discovered two wonderful things to share with you, so I will send one of them today and the other before the Week is over.

In the Latin Rite, the reading for Monday of Holy Week is the story of Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus with spikenard (John 12:1-11). She then wipes them with her hair, an act of great love and repentance. In the Eastern Churches, the office of Matins on Holy Wednesday is the occasion of the singing of the Hymn of Kassia. Kassia was a 9th-century Byzantine nun who wrote poems and hymns, and the Hymn of Kassia’s lyrics and music both date from over 1,000 years ago.

A group called Cappella Romana specializes in discovering, interpreting, and preserving ancient church music, and they bring this haunting work alive with its message of profound humility. The hymn is told from the point of view of the Mary who anointed Jesus’s feet, which some traditions identify as St. Mary Magdalene.

I don’t know of a more moving hymn of repentance than this work, especially when the female singers take the lead, and I hope you find it inspiring, as well. Listen for the characteristic bass “drone” in the background and allow the flowing words and voices to bring you to the feet of God.

A holiest of Holy Weeks to you and yours,
Matthew Manint

Bow yourself down to the groanings of my heart,
You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable self-emptying.
I shall kiss your immaculate feet, and wipe them again with the locks of my hair,
Those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise,
And hid herself in fear.

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