Friday, April 29, 2011

Maundy Thursday 2011

Thanks to Dennis Maturan

Late Posting of Good Friday Meditations

When the High Priest questioned him about his doctrines, the Lord Jesus responded: “I have spoken publicly in the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing.” In his Sacred Humanity, he was true to himself as the Word of the Father. The Holy Father wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini: “Reading the Gospel accounts, we see how Jesus’ own humanity appears in all its uniqueness precisely with regard to the word of God. In his perfect humanity he does the will of the Father at all times; Jesus hears his voice and obeys it with his entire being; he knows the Father and he keeps his word (cf. Jn 8:55); he speaks to us of what the Father has told him (cf. Jn 12:50); I have given them the words which you gave me” (Jn 17:8). Jesus thus shows that he is the divine Logos which is given to us, but at the same time the new Adam, the true man, who unfailingly does not his own will but that of the Father. He “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man” (Lk 2:52). In a perfect way, he hears, embodies and communicates to us the word of God (cf. Lk 5:1).”

We have just meditated on the 7 last words of Jesus. I am really amazed at the fact that even as he hung upon the Cross, Jesus continued to preach to the world. The Cross was his pulpit and the 7 last words were probably his greatest sermon. Towards the end, he declared: It is finished! “And bowing his head, he gave up his Spirit.” The Word says no more! “…here we find ourselves before the “word of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18). The word is muted; it becomes mortal silence, for it has “spoken” exhaustively, holding back nothing of what it had to tell us. The Fathers of the Church, in pondering this mystery, attributed to the Mother of God this touching phrase: “Wordless is the Word of the Father, who made every creature which speaks, lifeless are the eyes of the one at whose word and whose nod all living things move”. Here that “greater” love, the love which gives its life for its friends (cf. Jn 15:13), is truly shared with us.”

“The Word is muted, it becomes mortal silence…” We stand before this mortal silence…before this powerful “word of the Cross.” We are used to say: Dead men tell no tales. Such cannot be said about the Lord because if he had taught us so much while he preached along the Sea of Galilee, he taught us more as he hung lifeless on the Cross. So many have found strength and solace simply by looking at that silent and lifeless God on the Cross. “They shall look upon him whom they have pierced” Looking at him, what do we see? In him, we see our iniquities and the sufferings we deserve on account of them. In him we see the gravity of our offences and the consequences of our sins: “For it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offences, crushed by our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way, but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”

But not only the ugliness of sin do we see as we look at him. Ironically, in his hideous appearance, we behold the countenance of his love. The love that we see in him is one that exhausts itself, one that bears sufferings for the sins of others, one that forgives, one that triumphs over evil. Yes, it is a love that triumphs over evil. Suffering does not have the last say in him. And neither does death. “The Cross represents the humiliations of Christ; but since the day when Jesus was nailed to it, it occupies a place of honor in our churches. Instrument of our salvation, the cross becomes for Christ the price of his glory: ’Did not the Christ have to suffer these things before entering into His glory?’ (Lk. 24:26)” (Bl. Columba Marmion, Christ In His Mysteries, 306.) Christ’s passion is the measure of his glory. “The glory of Jesus is infinite because He, being God, has in His Passion gone to the utmost degree of suffering and humiliation. And it is because He has so deeply abased Himself that God has given Him such glory: ‘Therefore God the Father has exalted Him’ (Phil. 2:9).” (Marmion, 304.)

Powerful in life, Jesus is even more powerful in death – for in dying, Jesus restores to us what the devil has destroyed: the likeness of God in the human soul. “So marred was his look beyond human semblance” and he allowed it to be so in order to restore to us the beautiful likeness of God. The baptised soul, the saint in heaven, is the wonderful masterpiece of Him who hangs lifeless upon the Cross.

“Because of his afflictions, he shall see the light in fullness of days, through his sufferings, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore, I shall give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”

Late Posting of Holy Thursday Meditation

With this Mass of the Last Supper, we enter into the holiest time of the liturgical year: the Sacred Triduum of the Passion, Death, Burial, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The events of the Passion, Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus constitute what we call the “Paschal Mystery”. Like the crossing by the Israelites from slavery to freedom through the Red Sea, so did Christ cross from this world to the Father through the sea of suffering and death which he endured. This is what Sacred Scriptures constantly refer to as the Hour of Jesus: “Before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.” The Paschal Mystery is opened by the Last Supper. Why the Last Supper? Well, it is because the Last Supper was the moment when our Lord was obviously free to do what he did. Hours before the Kiss of Judas, hours before he was chained by the temple guards, hours before he was violently tortured by evil men, Jesus ate the Passover supper with his disciples. Long before he was surrounded by enemies, he was surrounded by friends – his disciples. Long before his hands were restrained by heavy chains, he took bread and wine. Long before his body was lacerated by thorns, whips, and nails, he said: This is my body which will be given up for you. Long before his blood flowed from his gaping wounds, he said: This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you and for the many, so that sins may be forgiven. It would be hard to believe that Jesus freely laid down his life when we see him surrounded, chained, and tortured by his enemies. That is why before he was physically restrained, he tells us that his Body is given up for us and his Blood is the Blood of the New Covenant which is shed for the forgiveness of our sins. By this, he makes it clear to us that his passion is not simply a violent story of torture and inhumanity. More than this, his passion is a sacrifice – an act of homage, an act of worship which Christ offers his Father. It is a priestly act with which Jesus mediates between God and humanity. In this priestly act, he is able to reconcile us with the Father. He brings about the forgiveness of our sins. Thus, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26) The Eucharist, which the Lord instituted at the Last Supper, is essentially the Death of the Lord not only being remembered and proclaimed but also made present and accessible to those who approach it with faith.

Christ makes this great and saving mystery accessible to us by humbling himself. He who is God humbled himself and assumed our human nature. He further humbled himself by accepting death on the Cross. And as if it were not enough, he humbled himself even further – he made himself lower than man, and even lower than the animals: he became food and drink. He takes bread and makes it his Body. He takes wine and makes it his Blood. He takes off his outer garment to put on one of lower kind. He subjects his Body and Blood, his Soul and his Divinity to the appearance of Bread and Wine. He did this because he was “fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” He knew he had so much power that he used it – not to exalt himself but to humble himself: he contained his divinity in his humanity and then contained both his divinity and humanity into bread and wine. He had come from God and he was returning to God. He came from on high and was about to ascend to that height of heights. But before doing this, he uses his power to go to the depths – he goes to the depths of suffering and death; he goes to the depths of hell. In his humility he continues to be who he always is: our Lord and Master. In his humanity he continues to be God. In the Eucharistic species, he continues to be God and Man. Thus, no matter how humble the appearances may be, we bend our knees and bow our heads before this Holy Sacrament because faith makes us see clearly what is apparently hidden from mortal eyes. Tantum ergo Sacramentum veneremur cernui:…praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On Confessing the Lordship of Christ

To the unbeliever’s eye, the passion of our Lord seems to be a story of a shameful defeat. The man who was acclaimed as a prophet and a wonderworker, much admired by many, walks to his death, bearing the instrument of his execution. Abandoned by his disciples, surrounded by his enemies and by a jeering crowd, Jesus was truly forlorn. He cries out from the cross: Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? But that is what the unbeliever sees. The Gospel writer, St. Matthew, helps us look at these sad events from the point of view of faith. First, St. Matthew shows us clearly that everything that happened in that day happened in order to fulfill the scriptures. When one of his disciples cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Jesus said to him: “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than 12 legions of angels? But then, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass this way?...But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.” The concern was to show that all this is the fulfillment of Sacred Scriptures. These events were not an unfortunate succession of coincidences but rather, these were premeditated events – carefully planned by the Blessed Trinity with a specific outcome in mind. The objective is clearly our salvation. This took place for us men and for our salvation (qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem…) In fact, it did not take long for the objectives to be achieved. Immediately after the Lord expired, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” Last Sunday, we saw how Lazarus, the friend of Christ, was raised from the dead. Today, we see not one, not two, but many saints coming forth from their tombs. By this, Christ’s glory is revealed: “From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Because of this, to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is no longer deemed as blasphemy as the chief priest supposed. To acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is to profess the truth. To confess this truth is to glorify the Father: “at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This is what we are preparing to do throughout the season of Lent. We pray, we fast, we confess our guilt and rectify our ways during this holy season so that Easter may find us worthy of professing the faith that saves: “For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10) As Lent draws to a close, let us intensify our prayer and fasting. Let us turn with all our hearts to the Lord and confess our sins so that when the Easter Triduum comes we may be worthy to make the centurion’s confession our own: “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

Friday, April 15, 2011

On Contemplating the Passion of the Lord

True reverence for the Lord's passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in him our true humanity,

The earth - our earthly nature - should tremble at the suffering of the Redeemer. The rocks - the hearts of unbelievers - should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart. Foreshadowings of the future resurrection should appear in the holy city, the Church of God: what is to happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts.

No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ. His prayer brought benefit to the multitude that raged against him. How much more does it bring to those who turn to him in repentance.

Ignorance has been destroyed, obstinacy has been overcome. The sacred blood of Christ has quenched the flaming sword that barred access to the tree of life. The age-old night of sin has given place to the true light.

St. Leo the Great, pope

Sermo 15, De passione Domini, 3-4: PL 54, 366-367

Office of Readings, Thursday Lent IV

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Decree on the Cult of Blessed John Paul II

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments published the Decree on the Liturgical Observance of the Cult of (soon to be) Blessed John Paul II. Decree established October 22 as the memorial of (Blessed) John Paul II in the Dioceses of Rome and Poland. The Link: ZENIT - Decree on the Cult of Blessed John Paul II

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Papal Wednesday audience On St. Thérèse of Lisieux

What great coincidence that in my short stay in Rome, the Holy Father spoke about my favorite saint: the Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face.
"Trust and Love" are therefore the final period of the account of her life, two words that like beacons, illumined the whole of her path of sanctity, to be able to lead others on her same "little way of trust and love" of spiritual childhood (cf Ms C, 2v-3r; LT 226). Trust like that of the child who abandons himself into the hands of God, inseparably because of the strong, radical commitment of true love, which is the total gift of self, for ever, as the saint said contemplating Mary: "To love is to give everything, and to give oneself" (Perche ti amo, O Maria, P 54/22). Thus Thérèse indicates to all of us that Christian life consists in living fully the grace of baptism in the total gift of self to the Love of the Father, to live like Christ, in the fire of the Holy Spirit, his very love for others."
You might want to follow the link: ZENIT - On St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Reading and Prayer

St. Isidore of Seville

"Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading.

"If a man wants to be always in God's company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.

"All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we do not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned.

"Reading the Holy Scripture confers two benefits: it trains the mind to understand them; it turns man's attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.

"Two kinds of study are called for here. We must first learn how the Scriptures are to be understood, and then see how to expound them with profit and in a manner worthy of them. A man must first be eager to understand what he is reading before he is fit to proclaim what he has learned.

"The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. For it is a less serious fault to be ignorant of an objective than it is to fail to carry out what we do know. In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study.

"No one can understand holy Scripture without constant reading, according to the words: Love her and she will exalt you. Embrace her and she will glorify you.

"The more you devote yourself to a study of the sacred utterances, the richer will be your understanding of them, just as the more the soil is tilled, the richer the harvest.

"Some people have great mental powers but cannot be bothered with reading; what reading could have taught them is devalued by their neglect. Others have a desire to know but are hampered by their slow mental processes; yet application to reading will teach themthings that the clever fail to learn through laziness.

"The man who is slow to grasp things but who really tries hard is rewarded; equally he who does not cultivate his God-given intellectual ability is condemned for despising his gifts and sinning by sloth.

"Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. It makes a great noise outside but serves no inner purpose. But when God's grace touches out innermost minds to bring understanding, his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart."

St. Isidore of Seville, Lib. 3, 8-10:

PL 83, 679-682.

Sing the Liturgy

Fr.Mark Kirby of Vultus Christi blog points out what I perceive is a pressing liturgical problem: that of singing in the Liturgy and NOT SINGING THE LITURGY. For a long time, we have been substituting inferior songs for the ACTUAL LITURGICAL TEXTS of the Proper of the Mass. The coming of the new translation must be a challenge to put into music the actual text of the Proper of the Mass. We should rid the Liturgy of the "termites of the Church." Follow the Link: And what are you singing today?