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Daily Archives: April 10, 2009
Through Mary he received his humanity, and in receiving his humanity received humanity itself. Which is to say, through Mary he received us. In response to the angel’s strange announcement, Mary said yes. But only God knew that it would end up here at Golgotha, that it had to end up here. For here, in darkness and in death, were to be found the prodigal children who had said no, the prodigal children whom Jesus came to take home to the Father.
O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?
Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?
Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe
Of the true vine?
Then let each houre
Of my whole life one grief devoure;
That thy distresse through all may runne,
And be my sunne.
Or rather let
My severall sinnes their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sinne may so.
Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sinne:
That when sinne spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
No room for me, and flie away.
Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sinne take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.
–George Herbert (1593-1633)
O all ye, who pass by, whose eyes and mind
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blind;
To me, who took eyes that I might you find:
Was ever grief like mine?
The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread:
Was ever grief like mine?
Without me each one, who doth now me brave,
Had to this day been an Egyptian slave.
They use that power against me, which I gave:
Was ever grief like mine?
Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent.
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him,
The little gray leaves were kind to Him:
The thorn-tree had a mind to Him
When into the woods He came.
Out of the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When Death and Shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
‘Twas on a tree they slew Him — last
When out of the woods He came.
–Sidney Lanier 1842-1881
And so we come to Good Friday, day of the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, placing ourselves in silence before Jesus nailed to the wood of the cross, we realize how full of love were the words he pronounced on the eve, in the course of the Last Supper. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). Jesus willed to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity’s sins. Just as before the Eucharist, so before the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross the mystery is unfathomable to reason. We are placed before something that humanly might seem absurd: a God who not only is made man, with all man’s needs, not only suffers to save man, burdening himself with all the tragedy of humanity, but dies for man.
Christ’s death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that beset humanity of all times: the crushing weight of our dying, the hatred and violence that again today bloody the earth. The Lord’s Passion continues in the suffering of men. As Blaise Pascal correctly writes, “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world; one must not sleep during this time” (PensÃ©es, 553). If Good Friday is a day full of sadness, and hence at the same time, all the more propitious a day to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and courage so that each one of us will carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and victory. The liturgy of this day sings: “O Crux, ave, spes unica” (Hail, O cross, our only hope).”
There by some wrinkled stones round a leafless tree
With beards askew, their eyes dull and wild
Twelve ragged men, the council of charity
Wandering the face of the earth a fatherless child,
Kneel, at their infidelity aghast,
For where was it, somewhere in Syria
Or Palestine when the streams went red,
The victor of Rome, his arms outspread,
His eyes cold with his inhuman ecstasy,
Cried the last word, the accursed last
Of the forsaken that seared the western heart
With the fire of the wind, the thick and the fast
Whirl of the damned in the heavenly storm:
Now the wind’s empty and the twelve living dead
Look round them for that promontory Form
Whose mercy flashed from the sheet lightning’s head;
But the twelve lie in the sand by the dry rock
Seeing nothing–the sand, the tree, rocks
Without number–and turn away the face
To the mind’s briefer and more desert place.
–Allen Tate (1899-1979)
Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look’st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.
”“John Donne (1572-1631)
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp’d my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix’d His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.
Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem’d to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own’d the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help’d to nail Him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!
A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may’st live.”
Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill’d,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill’d!
–John Newton (1725-1807)
Lord Jesus Christ, who for the redemption of mankind didst ascend the cross, that thou mightest enlighten the world that lay in darkness: gather us this day with all they faithful to that same holy cross; that, gazing in penitence upon thy great sacrifice for us, we may be loosed from all our sins, and entering into the mystery of thy passion, be crucified to the vain pomp and power of this passing world; and finding our glory in the cross alone, we may attain at last thy everlasting glory, where thou, the lamb that once was slain, reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
[This week the Jews celebrate passover and tell the story of how, 33 centuries ago, our ancestors were slaves].
3300 years is a long time, and I sometimes used to wonder: do we really need to remember events that happened long ago? Then, quite recently, I read J.K. Galbraith’s classic work on the great crash of 1929. Could it happen again? he asked. Yes it could, he said, but the memory of that disaster would probably protect us, because those who lived through it had vowed, Never again.
That book was first published in 1954, just 25 years after the events it describes. And with a tremor, I realised that the great crash through which we are living took place almost 80 years later, at more or less exactly the point at which the events of 1929 passed out of living memory for all but a few. What we remember, we can avoid. What we forget, we can repeat. And so it happened. It is uncanny how similar events are now to those of 80 years ago.
We’ve become a society with very little memory….What we forget we can repeat….
There is another aspect of the institution narrative cited in the Roman Canon on which we should reflect this evening. The praying Church gazes upon the hands and eyes of the Lord. It is as if she wants to observe him, to perceive the form of his praying and acting in that remarkable hour, she wants to encounter the figure of Jesus even, as it were, through the senses. “He took bread in his sacred hands ”¦” Let us look at those hands with which he healed men and women; the hands with which he blessed babies; the hands that he laid upon men; the hands that were nailed to the Cross and that forever bear the stigmata as signs of his readiness to die for love. Now we are commissioned to do what he did: to take bread in our hands so that through the Eucharistic Prayer it will be transformed. At our priestly ordination, our hands were anointed, so that they could become hands of blessing. Let us pray to the Lord that our hands will serve more and more to bring salvation, to bring blessing, to make his goodness present!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Tomorrow we begin the Holy Triduum, the heart of the entire liturgical year: a time when we immerse ourselves in the central events of our Redemption. The Chrism Mass serves as a prelude to these three days, as priests renew their promises to the Bishop, who then blesses the holy oils and consecrates the chrism signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit. At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we recall the institution of the Eucharist, the supreme sign of Christ’s love for us. As we venerate his Cross on Good Friday, we contemplate the full meaning of his words: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mk 14:24). Holy Saturday finds us waiting in silent hope for the Easter Vigil, when every church will break forth in a song of joy at the Lord’s Resurrection. The celebration of the Paschal mystery recalls the depth of Christ’s love: he did not wish to exercise his divinity as an exclusive possession, a means of domination, or a sign of distance between him and us. Rather, “he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7) by sharing fully in our human condition, even to the point of death: not a death imposed by blind chance or fate, but one freely chosen in obedience to the Father’s will for the salvation for all. May our fervent celebration of the Triduum draw us ever more deeply into Christ’s Paschal mystery!
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience. May your visit to Rome during this Holy Week fill you with the peace, hope and joy of Christ Jesus!
St. Peter once: ”˜Lord, dost thou wash my feet?’””
Much more I say: Lord, dost thou stand and knock
At my closed heart more rugged than a rock,
Bolted and barred, for thy soft touch unmeet,
Nor garnished nor in any wise made sweet?
Owls roost within and dancing satyrs mock.
Lord, I have heard the crowing of the cock
And have not wept: ah, Lord, though knowest it,
Yet still I hear thee knocking, still I hear:
”˜Open to me, look on me eye to eye,
That I may wring thy heart and make it whole;
And teach thee love because I hold thee dear
And sup with thee in gladness soul with soul,
And sup with thee in glory by and by.’
–Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wind at night
Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind;
Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape
Born of the sensual root and sap;
My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
–Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Easter Triduum, which the Church now prepares to celebrate, invites us to share in the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. These days are the heart of the liturgical year. On Holy Thursday the Church recalls the Last Supper. At the Chrism Mass, the Bishop and his priests renew their priestly promises and the sacramental oils are blessed. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates Jesus’ institution of the sacrament of his Body and Blood and his commandment that we should love one another. On Good Friday, we ponder the mystery of sin as we listen to the account of the Lord’s passion and venerate the wood of his Cross. Holy Saturday, a day of silence and prayer, prepares for the joy of the Easter Vigil, when the light of Christ dispels all darkness, and the saving power of his Paschal Mystery is communicated in the sacrament of Baptism. May our sharing in these solemn celebrations deepen our conversion to Christ, particularly through the sacrament of Reconciliation, and our communion, in the hope of the resurrection, with all our suffering brothers and sisters throughout the world.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who in the garden didst teach us, by word and example, to pray, that we might overcome the perils of temptation: Graciously grant that we, always continuing in prayer, may gain abundantly the fruit thereof, and be partakers of thy victory; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
As is our custom, we aim to let go of the cares and concerns of this world until Monday and to focus on the great, awesome, solemn and holy events of the next three days. I would ask people to concentrate their comments of the personal, devotional, and theological aspects of these days which will be our focal point here. Many thanks–KSH..
I read your blog frequently, and very much enjoy it. God bless you for keeping up on so much in current news with such a smart sense of humor.
The real trend of religion among the younger generation is away from dogmatic and institutional Christianity, and towards an individual and personal faith resting not on authority but on experience. This movement has weakened all ecclesiastical bodies which are exposed to it.
–William Ralph Inge, Assessments and Anticipations (London: Cassell, 1929), p. 83. (Readers may be interested to note that the context is a discussion of the failed 1928 Prayer Book) [Hat tip: SGWA].
HERNDON, Va. (April 9, 2009) ”“ The Convocation of Anglicans in North America announced that five congregations from five different states have joined the orthodox Anglican organization.
The new CANA members are as follows: Coventry, Alabaster, Ala.; Christ Church, Baltimore, Md.; St. Stephens, Tullahoma, Tenn.; Holy Trinity, North Augusta, S.C., and St. Edmunds, Elm Grove, Wis.
“We are pleased to welcome these new congregations into the CANA fellowship, a body of orthodox Anglican Christians here in the U.S. This is an exciting time to be Anglican given the renewed enthusiasm in this country and around the world. CANA provides an authentic connection to the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is what many Christians are seeking. We pray that each of these new congregations will grow in the fullness of our Lord Jesus Christ and continue to see lives transformed by the Good News of the Gospel,” said CANA Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns.
With the addition of these congregations, CANA now includes 75 congregations across the U.S.
The Pentagon sponsored a first-of-its-kind war game last month focused not on bullets and bombs ”” but on how hostile nations might seek to cripple the U.S. economy, a scenario made all the more real by the global financial crisis.
The two-day event near Ft. Meade, Maryland, had all the earmarks of a regular war game. Participants sat along a V-shaped set of desks beneath an enormous wall of video monitors displaying economic data, according to the accounts of three participants.
“It felt a little bit like Dr. Strangelove,” one person who was at the previously undisclosed exercise told POLITICO.