Monday, March 21, 2016

PALM SUNDAY and HOLY WEEK - click for link

Holy Week begins with the description of the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His Passion. Jesus, who had always been opposed to any public manifestation and who had fled when the people wanted to make Him their king (Jn 6:15), allows Himself to be borne in triumph today. Not until now, when He is about to die, does He submit to being publicly acclaimed as the Messiah, because by dying on the Cross, He will be in the most complete manner Messiah, Redeemer, King, and Victor. He allows Himself to be recognized as King, but a King who will reign from the Cross, who will triumph and conquer by dying on the Cross. The same exultant crowd that acclaims Him today will curse Him in a few days and lead Him to Calvary; today's triumph will be a vivid prelude to tomorrow's Passion. As the joyful procession advances, Jesus sees the panorama of Jerusalem spread out at His feet. St Luke says (19:41-44): "When He drew near, seeing the city, he wept over it, saying: "If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace!...Thy enemies...shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation."' St Teresa of Jesus says: "O Jesus, what bitter tears You shed over the city which refused to recognize You! And how many souls, like Jerusalem, go to perdition on account of their obstinate resistance to grace! For them I pray with all my strength. "My God, this is where Your power and mercy should be shown. Oh! what a lofty grace I ask for, O true God, when i conjure You to love those who do not love You, to answer those who do not call to You, to give, to give health to those who take pleasure in remaining sick!...You say, O my Lord, that you have come to seek sinners. Here, Lord, are the real real sinners. But, instead of seeing our blindness, O God, consider the precious Blood which Your Son shed for us. Let Your mercy shine out in the midst of such great malice. Do not forget, Lord, that we are Your creatures, and pour out on us Your goodness and mercy" (Exclamations of the Soul to God).

 Pope Francis blesses the Palms - St Peter's Square

Palm Sunday Procession - St Peter's Square

"A second word: why does Jesus enter Jerusalem? Or better: how does Jesus enter Jerusalem? The crowds acclaim him as King. And he does not deny it, he does not tell them to be silent (cf. Lk 19:39-40). But what kind of a King is Jesus? Let us take a look at him: he is riding on a donkey, he is not accompanied by a court, he is not surrounded by an army as a symbol of power. He is received by humble people, simple folk, who sense that there is more to Jesus, who have the sense of faith that says, "This is the Savior."
Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honours reserved to earthly kings, to the powerful, to rulers; he enters to be scourged, insulted and abused, as Isaiah foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 50:6). He enters to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision. He enters to climb Calvary, carrying his burden of wood. And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross. And it is here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross! I think of what Benedict XVI said to the cardinals: "You are princes but of a Crucified King"that is Christ's throne. Jesus takes it upon himself..why? Why the Cross? Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including our own sin, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money, which no-one can bring with him. My grandmother would say to us children, no shroud has pockets! Greed for money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And - each of us knows well - our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation. Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Christ brings to all of us from the Cross, his throne. Christ’s Cross embraced with love does not lead to sadness, but to joy! The joy of being saved and doing a little bit what he did that day of his death." (Excerpt from Pope Francis Palm Sunday

Text of meditations below are excerpts from 'Divine Intimacy' chapter on Passion Sunday. The post is illustrated by Tissot picture representing procession leading Jesus into Jerusalem


Tuesday of the Holy Week 
In today's Mass Epistle, Jeremiah (11:18-20) speaks to us as the suffering Saviour: "I was as a meek lamb that is carried to be a victim." This sentence expresses the attitude of Jesus towards the bitterness of His Passion. He knew every one of these sufferings in all their most concrete particulars; His heart had undergone them by anticipation, and the thought of them never left him for an instant during the course of His life on earth. If the Passion, in its historical reality, took place in less than twenty-four hours, in its spiritual reality it spanned his entire life.
Let us reflect on the gravity of sin with St Teresa: "O Lord of my soul, how quick we are to offend You! But how much quicker are You to forgive us! What am I saying, Lord! 'The sorrows of death have encompassed me' Alas! What a great evil is sin, since it could put God Himself to death with such terrible sufferings! And these same sufferings surround You today, O my Lord! Where can You go that You are not tortured? Men cover You with wounds in all Your members." (Exclamations of the Soul to God: 10)

Wednesday in the Holy Week
Today's Mass contains two lessons from Isaias (62:11-63:1-7, 53:1-12) which describe in a very impressive way the figure of Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, covered with the shining purple of His blood, wounded from head to foot, "Why then is Thy apparel red, and Thy garments like theirs that tread in the winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the Gentiles, there is not a man with Me." All alone Jesus trod the winepress of His Passion. Let us think of His agony in the Garden of Olives, where the vehemence of His grief covered all His members with a bloody sweat. Let us think of the moment when Pilate, after having Him scourged, brought Him before the mob, saying: "Behold the Man!".

'Ecce Homo' by Simon Bening

Jesus stood there, His head crowned with thorns, His flesh lacerated by the wipes; the brilliant red of His Blood mingled with the purple of His cloak, that cloak of derision with which the soldiers had clothed their mock king. Christ was offering Himself as a sacrifice for men, shedding His Blood for their salvation, and men were abandoning Him. "I looked about and there was none to help, I sought, and there was none to give aid" (Roman Missal). Where were the sick whom He had cured, the blind, who at the touch of His Hand recovered their sight, the dead who were raised to life, the thousands whom He had miraculously fed with bread in the wilderness, the wretched without number who in countless ways had experienced His goodness? Before Jesus there was only an infuriated mob clamoring: Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Even the Apostles, His most intimate friends, had fled; indeed one of them had betrayed Him: "If he that hated Me had spoken great things against Me, I would perhaps have hidden Myself from him! But thou, a man of one mind, My guide, and My familiar, who didst take sweetmeats together with Me" (Ps 54:13,14). We read these words today, as on all the Wednesdays of the year, in the psalms of Terce. To this text which so deeply expressive of the bitterness Jesus felt when betrayed and abandoned by His own, there is a corresponding response in Matins: "Instead of loving Me, they decried Me, and returned evil for good, and hate in exchange for My love" (Roman Breviary).
As we contemplate Jesus in His Passion, each one of us can say to himself, dilexit me, et tradidit semetipsum pro me - He loved me, and delivered Himself for me (Gal 2:20); and it would be well to add, "How have I repaid His love?"

Holy Thursday - the Gift of Love
Jesus, I want to tell all little souls of the wonder of your love (St Therese).

Today's Mass is , in a very special way, the commemoration and the renewal of the Last Supper, in which we are all invited to participate. Let us enter the Church and gather close around the altar as if going into the Cenacle to gather around Jesus; Here we find, as did the Apostles at Jerusalem, the Master living in our midst, and He Himself, through the person of His minister, will renew once again the great miracle which changes bread and wine into His Body and Blood; He will say to us, "Take and eat...take and drink." Jesus reveals to us the perfection of fraternal charity on the same evening that He instituted the Eucharist, as if to indicate that such perfection should be both fruit of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and our response to this great gift. Says St Teresa: "O good Jesus, to sustain our weakness and to stir up our love, You have chosen to remain always in our midst, although You well foresaw the way that men would treat You and the shame and outrages from which You would have to suffer. O eternal Father, how could You permit Your Son to live with us, to endure fresh insults every day? O my God! What great love in that Son! and also, what great love in that Father!...O Holy Father who art in Heaven, if Thy divine Son has left nothing undone that He could do for us in granting sinners so great a favour as that of the Blessed Sacrament, do not permit Him to be so ill-treated. Since Thy holy Son has given us this excellent way in which we can offer Him up frequently as a sacrifice, let us make use of this precious gift so that it may stay the advance of such terrible evil and irreverence as in many places is paid to this most holy Sacrament (Way of Perfection). Let us pray with St Augustine: O Lord, Lord, how small and narrow is the house of my soul for You to enter! Enlarge it Yourself. It is in ruins; repair it. I know and admit that there are things in it that are offensive in Your sight. But who will cleanse it? Or to whom but You shall I cry, purify me, Lord, from my hidden sins?"

Good Friday - The Mystery of the Cross 
St John of the Cross says Good Friday is the day which invites us more than any other to 'enter into the thicket of the trials and pains...of the Son of God' (Spiritual Canticle), and not only with the abstract consideration of the mind but with the loving heart and willingness to unite our sufferings with His. Says St John: "the purest suffering brings with it the most intimate and the purest understanding" (Spiritual Canticle). The atrocious martyrdom, which within a few hours will torture His body, has not yet begun, and yet the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Olives marks one of the most sorrowful moments of His Passion, one which best reveals the bitter suffering of His soul. His most sacred soul finds itself immersed in inexpressible anguish; it is extreme abandonment and desolation, without sligthest consolation, either from God or from man. 
The Saviour feels the weight of the enormous burden of all the sins of mankind; He the Innocent One, sees Himself covered with the most execrable crimes, and made, as it were, the enemy of God and the target of the infinite justice which will punish all our wickedness in Him. As God, Jesus never ceased, even in the most painful moment of His Passion to be united to His Father; but as man, He felt Himself rejected by Him, "struck by God and afflicted" (Is 53:4). This explains the utter anguish of His spirit, much more sorrowful than the dreadful physical sufferings which await Him, explains the cruel agony which made Him sweat blood; explains His complain, "My soul is sorrowful even unto death" (Mt 26:38). His humanity finds itself facing the hard reality of the fact, deprived of the sensible help of the divinity, which seems not only to withdraw, but even more, to be angry with Him, and Jesus groans: "My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me!" But this anguished cry of human nature is immediately lost in that perfect conformity of His will to the Father's: "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Mt 26:39)
The Agony in the Garden is soon followed by the treacherous kiss of Judas,

the arrest, the night passed in the interrogation by the high priest and insults from the soldiers who strike Jesus, spit on His face and blindfold Him, while in the outer court, Peter is denying Him.

At dawn they commence anew the questioning and accusations; the going back and forth from one tribunal to another begins - from Caiphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and back again to Pilate,

- followed by the horrible scourging and the crowning with thorns

Finally, clothed as a mock king, the Son of God is presented to the mob which cries out: "Away with this man, and release Barabbas" 

for Jesus, the Saviour, the crowd can only shout: "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" (Luke 23: 18-21). Loaded down with the wood for His torture, Jesus is led away to Calvary where he is crucified between two thieves.

These terrible physical sufferings reach their climax when the Saviour, in agony on the Cross, utters the cry: "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken  Me? (Mt 27:46). Although personally united to the Word, His humanity is, by a miracle, deprived of all divine comfort and support, and feels instead the weight of all malediction due to sin: "Christ," says St Paul, "has redeemed us from the curse...being made a curse for us" (Gal 3:13). Here we touch the most profound depths of the Passion of Jesus, the most atrocious bitterness which He embraced for our salvation. Yet, the last words of Jesus are an expression of total abandonment: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit" (Lk 23:46). Thus Jesus teaches us to overcome the anxieties and anguish caused in us by sorrow and death, by acts of complete submission to the will of God and trustful abandonment into His hands.

"I weep for You, my King, my Lord, and Master, my Father and Brother, my beloved Jesus" (St Bonaventure

Pictures illustrating the Good Friday post are by Rembrandt, Tissot and Dore

As soon as Jesus expired, "the veil of the Temple was torn in two....the earth quaked, the rocks were rent. And the graves were opened; and many bodies...arose," so that those who were present were seized with a great fear and said: "Indeed this was the Son of God" (Mt 27:51-54). St John of the Cross, describing the agony of Jesus on the Cross, affirms: "He wrought herein the greatest work that He had ever wrought, whether in miracles or in mighty works, during the whole of His life, either upon earth or in Heaven, which was the reconciliation and union of mankind, through grace, with God. And this, as I say, was at the moment and the time when this Lord was most completely annihilated in everything. Annihilated, that is to say, with respect to human reputation; since, when men saw Him die, they mocked Him rather than esteemed Him; and also with respect to nature, since His nature was annihilated when He died; and further with respect to the spiritual consolation and protection of the Father, since at that time He foresook Him...". And he concludes: "Let the truly spiritual man may understand the mystery of the gate and of the way of Christ, and so become united with God, and let him know that, the more completely he is annihilated for God's sake, according to these two parts, the sensual and the spiritual, the more completely he is united to God and the greatest is the work which he accomplishes" (Ascent of Mt Carmel, 2:7,11).

Barocci. The Entombment

If you would understand that the Cross is Our Lord's triumph, hear what He Himself said:' If I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself'. In sharing His Cross, you are seeking His glory (St John of the Cross).

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Saturday, March 05, 2016

The first of the Romances poem is based on St John’s Gospel (John 1:1) - ‘In pronciptio erat Verbum or In the beginning was the Word’, regarding the Blessed Trinity. Very beautiful poem for the Lenten meditation. 

1. In the beginning the Word was; He lived in God And possessed in him His infinite happiness. That same Word was God, Who is the Beginning; He was in the beginning. He was himself the Beginning And therefore had no beginning. The Word is called Son; He was born of the Beginning Who had always conceived him, Giving of his substance always, Yet always possessing it. And thus the glory of the Son was the Father’s glory, and the Father possessed all his glory in the Son. As the lover in the beloved Each lived in the other, And the Love that unites them Is one with them, their equal, excellent as the One and the Other: Three Persons, and one Beloved Among all three. One love in them all Makes of them one Lover, And the Lover is the Beloved In whom each one lives. For the being that the three possess Each of them possesses, And each of them loves Him who bears this being, Which alone unites them, Binding them deeply, One beyond words. Thus it is boundless Love that unites them, For the three have one love Which is their essence; And the more love is one The more it is love.

 2. On the communication among the Three Persons.
In that immense love proceeding from the two, the Father spoke words of great affection to the Son. Words od such profound delight that no one understood them; they were meant for the Son, and he alone rejoiced in them. What he heard was this: "My Son, only your company contents me, and when something pleases me I love that thing in you; whoever resembles you most satisfies me most, and whoever is like you in nothing will find nothing in me. I am please with you alone, O life of my life! You are the light of my light, you are my wisdom, the image of my substance in whom I am well pleased. My Son, I will give myself to him who loves you and I will love him with the same love I have for you, because he has loved you whom I love so."

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