Daily Archives: April 3, 2010

Joel Garver on the 20th century’s greatest Theologian of Holy Saturday

“[Hans Urs von] Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday is probably one of his most intriguing contributions since he interprets it as moving beyond the active self-surrender of Good Friday into the absolute helplessness of sin and the abandonment and lostness of death.

In the Old Testament one of the greatest threats of God’s wrath was His threat of abandonment, to leave His people desolate, to be utterly rejected of God. It is this that Jesus experienced upon the Cross and in His descent into the lifeless passivity and God-forsakenness of the grave. By His free entrance into the helplessness of sin, Christ was reduced to what Balthasar calls a “cadaver-obedience” revealing and experience the full horror of sin.

As Peter himself preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24; 32-33):

”˜[Jesus] being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you, by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; who God raised up, having abolished the birth pangs of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it”¦This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He pour out this which you now see and hear.’

We ought to pause and note the passivity that is expressed here. Christ experienced what God was doing through Him by His purpose and foreknowledge. Jesus was truly dead and fully encompassed within and held by the pains of death and needed God to abolish them. He was freed from death by God, not simply by God’s whim, but because for God it was impossible that death should hold Christ. Christ Himself receives the Holy Spirit from the Father in order that He might pour out that Spirit. Balthasar writes:

”˜Jesus was truly dead, because he really became a man as we are, a son of Adam, and therefore, despite what one can sometimes read in certain theological works, he did not use the so-called “brief” time of his death for all manner of “activities” in the world beyond. In the same way that, upon earth, he was in solidarity with the living, so, in the tomb, he is in solidarity with the dead”¦Each human being lies in his own tomb. And with this condition Jesus is in complete solidarity.’

According to Balthasar, this death was also the experience, for a time, of utter God-forsakenness””that is hell. Hell, then, is a Christological concept which is defined in terms of Christ’s experience on the Cross. This is also the assurance that we never need fear rejection by the Father if we are in Christ, since Christ has experienced hell in our place.”

”“S. Joel Garver on Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Theology

Archbishop Rowan Williams on the meaning of Holy Week

In all sorts of ways Holy Week really is the most important week in the Christian year because it’s a week when we discover in a way we don’t at any other time just we are and just who God is….

…on Good Friday we are not only discovering something unwelcome about ourselves, we are seeing Christ’s arms extended to us on the tree of life as the old Hymn says. We look at Jesus as the source of new hope because we see in his sacrificial love what God is willing to do for us. We see that he knows and understands our darkness more fully than we do ourselves and still embraces us and takes us forward and that becomes absolutely real and concrete in the events of Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday morning.

We gather in darkness on Holy Saturday evening. We gather to listen to the story of how God brought light out of darkness at the very beginning and how God’s pillar of cloud and fire lead his people through the desert. We celebrate the way in which God set his people free in the story of the Exodus, and we listen to all those prophecies of how God will honour his work and his word and bring it to completion in Jesus. And so we are drawn into the great mystery of Easter, we come to the point when the lights are fully on, the candles are all lit and we can celebrate a light that has dawned again on the world. We’ve been taken on a journey all week from darkness to light, from the darkness of not really understanding ourselves to the light of seeing God’s face clearly and seeing ourselves; from the darkness of recognising our own failures and our sins into the light of hope and forgiveness. And that is why as the first Eucharist of Easter begins we pull all the stops out quite literally, the organ plays, the bells ring and we recognise that the journey for this week, for this time, is over. We’ve come home to where Jesus is. The risen Jesus is standing with God the Father pouring out in the Holy Spirit his love on the world and we just stand there for a moment at Easter receiving that, basking in it as you might say. We’ve come on a journey, we’ve come home and we know that that home is always there for us in the accepting, compassionate love of God which has paid the ultimate sacrifice to make peace between heaven and earth.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week

A Prayer for Holy Saturday (III)

O Lord God, who didst send thy only begotten Son to redeem the world by his obedience unto death: Grant, we humbly beseech thee, that the continual remembrance of his bitter cross may teach us to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof; that in the union and merits of his death and passion we may die with him, and rest with him, and rise again with him, and live with him for ever, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory; world without end.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise thee?…Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

–Psalm 88:10-12

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week

Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Truth of Holy Saturday: Only the wound is there

”¦Suddenly all of them standing around the gallows know it: he is gone. Immeasurable emptiness (not solitude) streams forth from the hanging body. Nothing but this fantastic emptiness is any longer at work here. The world with its shape has perished; it tore like a curtain from top to bottom, without making a sound. It fainted away, turned to dust, burst like a bubble. There is nothing more but nothingness itself.

The world is dead.

Love is dead.

God is dead.

Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell. One has penetrated the other perfectly. The nadir has reached the zenith: nirvana.
Was that lightning?

Was the form of a Heart visible in the boundless void for a flash as the sky was rent, drifting in the whirlwind through the worldless chaos, driven like a leaf?

Or was it winged, propelled and directed by its own invisible wings, standing as lone survivor between the soulless heavens and the perished earth?

Chaos. Beyond heaven and hell. Shapeless nothingness behind the bounds of creation.

Is that God?

God died on the Cross.

Is that death?

No dead are to be seen.

Is it the end?

Nothing that ends is any longer there.

Is it the beginning?

The beginning of what? In the beginning was the Word. What kind of word? What incomprehensible, formless, meaningless word? But look: What is this light glimmer that wavers and begins to take form in the endless void? It has neither content nor contour.

A nameless thing, more solitary than God, it emerges out of pure emptiness. It is no one. It is anterior to everything. Is it the beginning? It is small and undefined as a drop. Perhaps it is water. But it does not flow. It is not water. It is thicker, more opaque, more viscous than water. It is also not blood, for blood is red, blood is alive, blood has a loud human speech. This is neither water nor blood. It is older than both, a chaotic drop.

Slowly, slowly, unbelievably slowly the drop begins to quicken. We do not know whether this movement is infinite fatigue at death’s extremity or the first beginning – of what?

Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.

It trickles, lost in the chaos, directionless, without gravity. But more copiously now. A wellspring in the chaos. It leaps out of pure nothingness, it leaps out of itself.

It is not the beginning of God, who eternally and mightily brings himself into existence as Life and Love and triune Bliss.

It is not the beginning of creation, which gently and in slumber slips out of the Creator’s hands.

It is a beginning without parallel, as if Life were arising from Death, as if weariness (already such weariness as no amount of sleep could ever dispel) and the uttermost decay of power were melting at creation’s outer edge, were beginning to flow, because flowing is perhaps a sign and a likeness of weariness which can no longer contain itself, because everything that is strong and solid must in the end dissolve into water. But hadn’t it – in the beginning – also been born from water? And is this wellspring in the chaos, this trickling weariness, not the beginning of a new creation?

The magic of Holy Saturday.

The chaotic fountain remains directionless. Could this be the residue of the Son’s love which, poured out to the last when every vessel cracked and the old world perished, is now making a path for itself to the Father through the glooms of nought?

Or, in spite of it all, is this love trickling on in impotence, unconsciously, laboriously, towards a new creation that does not yet even exist, a creation which is still to be lifted up and given shape? Is it a protoplasm producing itself in the beginning, the first seed of the New Heaven and the New Earth?

The spring leaps up even more plenteously. To be sure, it flows out of a wound and is like the blossom and fruit of a wound; like a tree it sprouts up from this wound. But the wound no longer causes pain. The suffering has been left far behind as the past origin and previous source of today’s wellspring.

What is poured out here is no longer a present suffering, but a suffering that has been concluded”“no longer now a sacrificing love, but a love sacrificed.

Only the wound is there: gaping, the great open gate, the chaos, the nothingness out of which the wellspring leaps forth. Never again will this gate be shut. Just as the first creation arose ever anew out of sheer nothingness, so, too, this second world – still unborn, still caught up in its first rising – will have its sole origin in this wound, which is never to close again.

In the future, all shape must arise out of this gaping void, all wholeness must draw its strength from the creating wound.

High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.

”“Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week

God knows our dying From the Inside

Jesus dies. His lifeless body is taken down from the cross. Painters and sculptors have strained their every nerve to portray the sorrow of Mary holding her lifeless son in her arms, as mothers today in Baghdad hold with the same anguish the bodies of their children. On Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, God is dead, entering into the nothingness of human dying. The source of all being, the One who framed the vastness and the microscopic patterning of the Universe, the delicacy of petals and the scent of thyme, the musician’s melodies and the lover’s heart, is one with us in our mortality. In Jesus, God knows our dying from the inside.

–”“The Rt. Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Holy Week, Parish Ministry, Theology

Jesus Christ was Buried

“By the grace of God” Jesus tasted death “for every one”. In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only “die for our sins” but should also “taste death”, experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead. The state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell. It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb, reveals God’s great sabbath rest after the fulfillment of man’s salvation, which brings peace to the whole universe.

The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, para. 624

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week

Holy Week, 2010: Pictures from Around the World

There are 39 photos in total–look through them all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Globalization, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship

Peter Ould: Good Friday Sermon ”“ 2010

Throughout my childhood I managed a number of impressive accidents. As well as the usual hot water scalds and mishandlings of knives that most kids get through, I also managed a nice groove in my skull from a flying cricket bat (and you can have a feel of it later if you so desire) and several occurrences of electrocuting myself off the mains. 240 volts through your hand is not a pleasant experience, let me tell you. Do not try that one at home.

The thing about all those events though is that they were accidents. None were planned. At no point did I decide it would be useful to impale myself of become a human volt-meter or burn bits of my body off in an attempt to improve myself. Neither was it the fault of my parents. For example, at no point did they think it would be particularly useful if I learnt what it was like to come within a few millimetres of losing my eye. No, it’s not the kind of thing that Mums and Dads do.

And that’s why the events that we remember today are so shocking, because nothing about the crucifixion was an accident. No, in remarkable contrast to the tales of woe that I have shared with you about my life, the things that happened to Jesus on that Friday were entirely planned.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

The Transition

Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day ”” Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another ”” Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.

”“Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Theology

Mars Hill Church Seattle Reflects on Good Friday 2010: By faith in Jesus you are now”¦

From here:

Last night we celebrated Good Friday. As always, it was a paradoxical night, an unhappy celebration. It is a day of intense sadness mixed with intense thankfulness. It was both uncomfortable and convicting as we saw the depth of our sin in light of the amazing love of God who died for us. Tomorrow we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter. In the words of Graeme Goldsworthy, “The resurrection was the Father’s ”˜Amen’ to the finished work of Christ.” Therefore, for all who repent of their sin and receive Jesus as their Lord, Savior and chief treasure you are now”¦

”¦victorious over Satan, sin and death (1 Cor 15:57; 2 Co 9:15; Ro 7:23-25; 2 Co 2:14)
”¦adopted by God (Eph 1:5; Rom 8:15) as God’s children (Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1,2).
”¦made friends of God (Jn 15:15) and saints (Eph. 1:1).
”¦complete (Col. 2:10).
”¦hidden with Jesus in God (Col. 3:3) .
”¦seated with him in the heavenly kingdom (Eph. 2:6).
”¦established, chosen and made holy (2Cor. 1:21-22).
”¦forever in the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39).
”¦free from any charges against you (Rom. 8:31-34).
”¦assured that all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28).
”¦forever free from being ruined (Rom. 8:1-2).
”¦saved from and forgiven of all your sins (Col. 1:14).
”¦able to go freely and confidently (Eph 3:12) to God the Father through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)
”¦a recipient of grace and mercy in time of need (Heb. 4:16).
”¦fully reconciled to God (2Cor 5:18)
”¦able to do all things through him who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13).
”¦bought with a price and belong to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and
”¦free from the devil (1John 5:18) with authority over him (Col 2:14-15; 1 Jn 3.8)
”¦at peace with God (Rom. 5:1)
”¦in one spirit with God (1 Cor. 6:17).
”¦God’s co-worker (2 Cor. 6:1; 1 Cor. 3:9), God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16) and personal witness (Acts 1:8).
”¦chosen to bear fruit (John 15:16) as a branch of the true Vine (John 15:1-5)
”¦a member of his body (1 Cor. 12:27; Ro 12).
”¦called to bring people together for God (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
”¦able to participate in his unfolding story of redemption (Mt. 28:18-20)
”¦sent as Jesus was sent (John 17:18).
”¦perfectly and completely loved. (Rom 5:7-8; Jn 3:16; Eph 1:7, 5:2, 5.25)
”¦no longer under God’s wrath (Gal 3:13; Rom 3:25; 1 Jn 4:10)
”¦declared “Not Guilty!” (Rom 5:9, 3.24, 3.28)
”¦reconciled to God and others. (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:28; Eph 2:16; Col 1:20)
”¦entirely cleansed and forgiven. (Eph 1:7; Mt 26:28; Ps 103:12)
”¦free from the fear of death. (Heb 2:14-15)
”¦part of God’s people, the church. (Lk 9:23; Mt 10:38; Rev 5:9; Jn 10:16)
”¦free from slavery to sin (Rev 1:5-6; Heb 13:12)
”¦brought home to God (Rom 5:10; 1 Peter 3:18; Eph 2:13; Rom 7:4; 1 Cor 6:19-20; Acts 20:28)
”¦declared 100% righteous (2 Cor 5:21; Rom 5:19; Phil 3:9)
”¦a recipient of eternal life”¦which is knowing him. (Jn 3.16; John 17:3)

We call this the Gospel. Good news, in fact world-altering, history-shaping, eternity-securing news, to sinners.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Soteriology, Theology

In the End A Sort of Quietness

I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been”“if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you”“you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.

”“C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town's 2010 Good Friday Sermon

Everywhere the salvation of Jesus Christ brings new life and new beginnings: for humanity, and for all creation. This is the hallmark of the kingdom of God ”“ the kingdom that both is, and is to come. And though we know we shall see such redemption in all its fulness at the end of time, we are also to be part of the coming of the kingdom here and now ”“ partners with Christ in his good news for all creation.

But the stark truth is that creation itself is a battle-ground for God’s kingdom ”“ at the hands of the most destructive elements of selfish, greedy, short-sighted, sinful humanity. Pollution, environmental degradation, global warming, climate change ”¦ We are complicit in the varying weather patterns that bring worse floods, harsher droughts. We see this happening within Southern Africa. Even more seriously, across the Indian Ocean ”“ which laps so pleasantly on Durban’s beaches ”“ the entire nation of the Maldives is threatened with being wiped off the map, as the sea rises and covers their islands.

God calls us to be part of the solution, not part of the problem ”“ part of the coming of the kingdom, partners in his working of redemption and salvation.

”˜Seek the Lord and live ”¦’ says the prophet Amos, condemning greed and corruption in the exploitation of the earth’s resources and its people. The same choice lies before us. Will we seek the Lord and the ways of life ”“ as individuals, and also as members of the communities, society, nation, and global human family of which we are a part?

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Upon our Saviour’s Tomb, wherein never man was laid.

HOW life and death in Thee
Agree !
Thou hadst a virgin womb
And tomb.
A Joseph did betroth
Them both.

”“Richard Crashaw (1613-1649)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

The Sound of Perfect Silence

The church is dark now. The altar is stripped and bare. Some are getting up and leaving in silence. Others remain kneeling, looking into the darkness. Holy Saturday is ahead, the most quiet day of the year. The silence of that silent night, holy night, the night when God was born was broken by the sounds of a baby, a mother’s words of comfort and angels in concert. Holy Saturday, by contrast, is the sound of prefect silence. Yesterday’s mockery, the good thief’s prayer, the cry of dereliction””all that is past now. Mary has dried her tears, and the whole creation is still, waiting for what will happen next.

Some say that on Holy Saturday Jesus went to hell in triumph, to free the souls long imprisoned there. Others say he descended into a death deeper than death, to embrace in his love even the damned. We do not know. Scripture, tradition and pious writings provide hints and speculations, but about this most silent day it is perhaps best to observe the silence. One day I expect he will tell us all about it. When we are able to understand what we cannot now even understand why we cannot understand.

–Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week