Category Archives: Passiontide

Peacocks & Resurrection

Master of Isabella di Chiaromonte. ‘Initial D with Imago Pietatis (Christ on His Tomb with Marks of the Passion),’ ca. 1460. ink, paint and gold on parchment. Walters Art Museum (W.328.101R): Acquired by Henry Walters.


-by Rev John Bartunek, LC

“Peacocks often appear in early Christian art as a symbol of the Resurrection and Eternal Life. There are various levels to this symbolism.

Pagan Roots

The most obvious is a carry-over from ancient pagan religions, some of which held the belief that the peacock’s flesh never decayed, even after it died. Early Christians, therefore, adopted the bird as a symbol of the Resurrection, Christ’s eternal, glorious existence.

Medieval Theories

In medieval times, it was also thought that peacocks molt (shed their feathers) every year, and the new ones that grow are more beautiful than the old ones. Along with this idea, medieval legends included the theory that the gorgeous colors of a peacock’s feathers came from a special diet: It was believed that peacocks could kill and eat poisonous serpents, ingesting the poison and transforming it into the colors of their feathers. This too contributed to their being an apt symbol of Christ’s Resurrection, since Christ “became sin” [cf 2 Corinthians 5:21] for us on the Cross, but then rose from the dead with his glorified body and wounds having conquered the powers of evil.

Regardless of the biological accuracy or inaccuracy of these traditions, they help explain why Christian artists often used peacocks as a symbol of the Resurrection and Eternal Life.

Hidden Splendor

Personally, however, I have always been moved even more deeply by another level of symbolism that we can discover in this intriguing bird.

During the normal activities of a normal day, peacocks are fairly normal looking animals. And yet, all the while they are pecking and clucking like your average fowl, a hidden splendor lies underneath. When they spread their tail-feathers, this magnificence shines forth, revealing their true beauty.

The symbolism here is clear. When you see a Christian walking along the street, you can’t tell the difference between him and someone who has never been baptized. From all external appearances, they are both just human beings making their way through the hustle and bustle of daily life. And yet, underneath that ordinary appearance, the Christian soul enjoys a hidden splendor through the transforming power of God’s grace. The Blessed Trinity actually dwells in the soul who lives in that grace. And the person living the life of grace has also received a plethora of spiritual gifts: the theological virtues and the other infused virtues; the gifts of the Holy Spirit; the sacramental seals coming from baptism and confirmation, etc.

These spiritual realities are habitually and dynamically present in every Christian who lives the life of grace, but they are not visible in the ordinary way. Their full splendor will only become visible when the Christian enters into eternal life and comes to share in Christ’s own glorious resurrection. At that point, the hidden magnificence of each Christian’s soul will be revealed, to the wonderment of all, similar to a sudden spreading of the peacock’s magnificent feathers.

It’s only an artistic symbol, so there isn’t a perfect correlation. But it’s a lovely one, in my opinion.”

Love, and beauty,
Matthew

Salva festa dies – 6th century AD

Salve, festa dies, toto venerabilis aevo. qua deus infernum vicit et astra tenet (Repeat after each verse)

Ecce renascentis testatur gratia mundi omnia cum domino dona redisse suo.

Namque triumphanti post tristia Tartara Christo undique fronde nemus, gramina flore favent.

Legibus inferni oppressis super astra meantem laudant rite deum lux polus arva fretum.

Qui crucifixus erat, deus ecce per omnia regnat, dantque creatori cuncta creata precem. salve, festa dies.

Christe salus rerum, bone conditor atque redemptor, unica progenies ex deitate patris.

Qui genus humanum cernens mersisse profundo, ut hominem eriperes es quoque factus homo

Nec voluisti etenim tantum te corpore nasci, sed caro quae nasci, pertulit atque mori

Fexequias pateris vitae auctor et orbis, intras mortis iter dando salutis opem.

Tristia cesserunt infernae vincula legis expavitque chaos luminis ore premi.

Depereunt tenebrae Christi fulgore fugatae et tetrae noctis pallia crassa cadunt.

Pollicitam sed redde fidem, precor, alma potestas: tertia lux rediit, surge, sepulte meus.

Non decet. ut humili tumulo tua membra tegantur, neu pretium mundi vilia saxa premant.

Lintea, precor, sudaria linque sepulchro: tu satis es nobis et sine te nihil est.

Solvecatenatas inferni carceris umbras et revoca sursum quidquid ad ima ruit.

Redde tuam faciem, videant ut saecula lumen, redde diem qui nos te moriente fugit.

Sed plane inplesti remeans, pie victor, ad orbem: Tartara pressa iacent nec sua iura tenent.

Inferus insaturabiliter cava gruttura pandens, qui rapuit semper, fit tua praeda, deus.

Evomit absorptam trepide fera belua plebem et de fauce lupi subtrahit agrnus oves.

Rex sacer, ecce tui radiat pars magna triumphi, cum puras animas sancta lavacra beant

Candidus egreditur nitidis exercitus undis atque vetus vitium purgat in amne novo.

Fulgentes animas vestis quoque candida signat et grege de niveo gaudia pastor habet.

Salve, festa dies, toto venerabilis aevo. qua deus infernum vicit et astra tenet.

Hail, thou festive, ever venerable day! whereon hell is conquered and heaven is won by Christ. (Repeat after each verse)

Lo! our earth is in her spring, bearing thus her witness that, with her Lord, she has all her gifts restored.

For now the woods with their leaves and the meadows with their flowers, pay homage to Jesus’ triumph over the gloomy tomb.

Light, firmament, fields and sea, give justly praise to the God that defeats the laws of death, and rises above the stars.

The crucified God now reigns over all things; and every creature to its Creator tells a prayer.

O Jesus! Saviour of the world! Loving Creator and Redeemer! Only ­begotten Son of God the Father!

Seeing the human race was sunk in misery deep, thou wast made Man, that thou mightest rescue man.

Nor wouldst thou be content to be born; but being born in the flesh, in the same wouldst thou suffer death.

Thou, the author of life and of all creation, wast buried in the tomb, treading the path of death, to give us salvation.

The gloomful bonds of hell were broken; the abyss shook with fear, as the light shone upon its brink.

The brightness of Christ put darkness to flight, and made to fall the thick veils of everlasting night.

But redeem thy promise, I beseech thee, merciful King! This is the third day; arise, my buried Jesus!

‘Tis not meet that thy Body lie in the lowly tomb, or that a sepulchral stone should keep imprisoned the ransom of the world.

Throw off thy shrouds, I pray thee! Leave thy winding sheet in the tomb. Thou art our all; and all else, without thee, is nothing.

Set free the spirits that are shackled in limbo’s prison. Raise up all fallen things.

Show us once more thy face, that all ages may see the light! Bring back the day which fled when thou didst die.

But thou hast done all this O loving conqueror, by returning to our world: death lies defeated, and its rights are gone.

The greedy monster, whose huge throat had swallowed all mankind, is now thy prey, O God!

The savage beast now trembling vomits forth the victims he had made, and the lamb tears the sheep from the jaw of the wolf.

O King divine! lo! here a bright ray of thy triumph- the souls made pure by the holy font.

The white ­robed troop comes from the limpid waters; and the old iniquity is cleansed in the new stream.

The white garments symbolize unspotted souls, and the Shepherd rejoices in his snowlike flock.

Hail, thou festive, ever venerable day! whereon hell is conquered and heaven is won by Christ.”

Happy Easter!!!

Love,
Matthew

Why we believe in the Resurrection


-by Trent Horn

“The Bible says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then the Christian faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:17). However, if Jesus did rise from the dead then we know Jesus can keep his promise to give everyone who follows him eternal life (1 John 2:25).

But how can we know that Jesus really rose from the dead and that the Bible’s description of this miracle wasn’t just a story someone made up?

One way is by showing that the Resurrection is the only explanation for the events surrounding Jesus’ death, events that almost everyone, including skeptics, agrees are historical. Even scholars who don’t think the Bible is the word of God admit it is not completely made up.

For example, skeptical scholar John Dominic Crossan denies that Jesus rose from the dead but he says, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”

Similarly, the atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann said, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” Lüdemann doesn’t think Jesus actually rose from the dead but that the apostles experienced an hallucination instead. He does think, however, the apostles thought they saw the risen Jesus and this fact of history needs to be explained.

An Atheist Admits the Evidence Is Overwhelming

Antony Flew was at one time one of the most famous atheists in the Western world. His essay “Theology and Falsification” is one of the most widely printed essays in the history of twentieth-century philosophy. That is why it is remarkable that even he admitted in a debate with a Christian that “the evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity.”

For example, the Qu’ran does not record Muhammad performing miracles, and the earliest sources about Buddha say he refused to perform miracles. Both men are described as performing miracles only in legends written centuries after their deaths. This stands in sharp contrast to the accounts of Christ’s Resurrection that we find in the Bible. Unlike the stories of other ancient wonder-workers, these Christian accounts were written decades (not centuries) after the events they describe and are preserved in multiple sources.

“I’m Ready to Be a Christian”

I remember staying up one night in high school watching debates on the Internet between Christians and atheists. One question kept bothering me: How did it all start? Christianity didn’t begin with one person having visions of God that no one else could confirm. It began with the public proclamation that a man had been raised from the dead. It was accompanied by historical evidence like the empty tomb that proved this was not a hoax or a hallucination.

That night I realized Jesus was really alive and he was the God “out there” I had vaguely thought about for so many years. I then bowed my head, opened up my palms, and prayed, “Jesus, if you’re real, help me believe. I’m ready to be a Christian.”

Why We Believe: The Resurrection

Even skeptics admit that Jesus was crucified, buried, his tomb was found empty, his disciples saw him after his death, and they were willing to die for that truth.

Other explanations, like hallucination or fraud, only [attempt to] explain some of these facts.

The most plausible explanation for all these facts is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.”

Love, & Easter Joy!!! He is Risen!!!! He is truly Risen!!!
Matthew

Haec dies

Haec dies quam fecit Dominus:
exultemus et laetemur in ea,
alleluya.

verse for Easter Sunday:
Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus:
quoniam in saeculum misericordia ejus.
[Pascha nostrum Immolatus est Christus.]

verse for Easter Monday:
Dicant nunc Israel, quoniam bonus:
quoniam in saeculum misericordia ejus.

verse for Easter Tuesday:
Dicant nunc, qui redempti sunt a Domino:
quos redemit de manu inimici,
et de regionibus congregavit eos.

This is the day which the Lord hath made:
let us be glad and rejoice therein.
Alleluia.

verse for Easter Sunday:
Give praise to the Lord, for he is good:
for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 118:1)
[Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.]

verse for Easter Monday:
Let Israel now say, that He is good:
that His mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 118:2)

verse for Easter Tuesday:
Let them say so that have been redeemed by the Lord,
whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy:
and gathered out of the countries.
(Psalm 107:2)

He IS RISEN!!!! Praise Him!!!

Love,
Matthew

Christ is the Day – St Maximus of Turin, (380-465 AD), Bishop


-image of a side chapel of the Rosary Basilica, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, France. The main image is a permanent mosaic depicting the Resurrection and was completed in about 1900. (The Basilica was consecrated in 1901)

(Sermo 53, 1-2, 4: CCL 23, 214-216 by Saint Maximus of Turin, bishop)

“Christ is risen! He has burst open the gates of hell and let the dead go free; He has renewed the earth through the members of His Church now born again in baptism and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life. His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth. Because of Christ’s resurrection, the thief ascends to paradise, the bodies of the blessed enter the holy city, and the dead are restored to the company of the living. There is an upward movement in the whole of creation, each element raising itself to something higher. We see hell restoring its victims to the upper regions, earth sending its buried dead to heaven, and heaven presenting the new arrivals to the Lord. In one and the same movement, our Savior’s passion raises men from the depths, lifts them up from the earth, and sets them in the heights.

Christ is risen. His rising brings life to the dead, forgiveness to sinners, and glory to the saints. And so David the prophet summons all creation to join in celebrating the Easter festival: Rejoice and be glad, he cries, on this day which the Lord has made (cf Psalm 118:24).

The light of Christ is an endless day that knows no night. Christ is this day, says the Apostle; such is the meaning of his words: Night is almost over; day is at hand (cf Romans 13:12). He tells us that night is almost over, not that it is about to fall. By this we are meant to understand that the coming of Christ’s light puts Satan’s darkness to flight, leaving no place for any shadow of sin. His everlasting radiance dispels the dark clouds of the past and checks the hidden growth of vice. The Son is that day to whom the day, which is the Father, communicates the mystery of His divinity. He is the day who says through the mouth of Solomon: I have caused an unfailing light to rise in heaven (cf Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] 24:6 Douay-Rheims). And as in heaven, no night can follow day, so no sin can overshadow the justice of Christ. The celestial day is perpetually bright and shining with brilliant light; clouds can never darken its skies. In the same way, the light of Christ is eternally glowing with luminous radiance and can never be extinguished by the darkness of sin. This is why John the evangelist says: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never been able to overpower it (cf John 1:5).

And so, my brothers, each of us ought surely to rejoice on this holy day. Let no one, conscious of his sinfulness, withdraw from our common celebration, nor let anyone be kept away from our public prayer by the burden of his guilt. Sinner he may indeed be, but he must not despair of pardon on this day which is so highly privileged; for if a thief could receive the grace of paradise, how could a Christian be refused forgiveness?”

Love, Joyful Easter!!!, Our Victory in Him!!!
Matthew

Victory of the Cross

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, crucified for love of me, show me the victory won by Your death.

MEDITATION

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” (Matthew 27:51-54). Jesus willed to die in complete ignominy, accepting to the very end the mocking and ironic challenges of the soldiers, “If Thou be Christ, save Thyself” (Luke 23,39); but scarcely had He drawn His last breath, when His divinity revealed itself in such a powerful manner that it impressed even those who, up to that moment, had been jeering at Him. Christ’s death began to show itself for what it really was, that is, not a defeat but a victory: the greatest victory that the world would ever witness, the victory over sin, the victory over death, which was the consequence of sin, the victory, which restored to man the life of grace.

In offering us the Cross for adoration yesterday, the Church sang: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world,” and after the mournful alternations of the Improperia, or tender reproaches, she intones a hymn of praise in honor of the Cross: “Sing, my tongue, the noble triumph whose trophy is the Cross, and the victory won by the immolation of the Redeemer of the world!” Thus consideration of the Lord’s sufferings and compassion for them alternate with the hymn of victory. The supreme paradox of death and life, of death and victory, reach a unity in Jesus, in such a way that the first is the cause of the second. 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 forsook Him ….” And he concludes: “Let the truly spiritual man…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 greater is the work which he accomplishes” (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, Chapter 7, Paragraph 11).

COLLOQUY

“Hail, O Cross, our only hope! You increase grace in the souls of the just and remit the faults of sinners. O glorious resplendent tree, decked in royal purple, on your arms hangs the price of our Redemption, in you is our victory, our ransom!” (cf. Roman Breviary).

“O Christ, I glance again at Your bloodstained face, and I raise my tear-filled eyes to see Your wounds and bruises. I lift my contrite, afflicted heart, to consider all the tribulations You have endured in order to seek me and to save me.

“O good Jesus, how generously have You given us, on the Cross, all You had! To Your executioners, Your loving prayer; to the thief, Paradise; to Your Mother, a son, and to the son, a Mother; to the dead, You gave back life, and you placed Your soul in Your Father’s hands; You showed Your power to the entire world, and shed, through Your wide and numerous wounds, not a few drops, but all Your Blood, to redeem a slave!… O meek Lord and Savior of the world, how can we thank You worthily?

“O good Jesus, You bow Your crowned Head, pierced by many thorns, inviting me to the kiss of peace. ‘see,’ You say to me, ‘how disfigured, torn, and annihilated I am! Do you know why? To lift you up, O wandering sheep, to put you on my shoulder and bring you to the heavenly pasture in Paradise. Now return My Love. Behold Me in My Passion. Love Me. I gave Myself to you; give yourself to Me.’ O Lord, I am grief-stricken at the sight of Your wounds; I want You to rule over me, just as You are, in Your Passion. I want to set You as a seal upon my heart, as a seal on my arm, to make me conformable to You and Your martyrdom in all I think and do.

“O good and gentle Jesus! You who gave Yourself to us as a ransom for our redemption, grant that we, unworthy though we be, may correspond with Your grace, entirely, perfectly, and in all things” (cf. St. Bonaventure).”

Love, Blessed Easter,
Matthew

Sermon on the Death of Christ – St Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD)


-Entombment of Christ, Fra Angelico, 1438-40, tempera on panel, 38 × 46 cm, Alte Pinakothek, Bavaria, Germany

Death trampled Our Lord underfoot, but He in His turn treated death as a highroad for His own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means He would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when Our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying His cross; but when, by a loud cry from that cross, He summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.

Death slew Him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying Our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.

Death could not devour Our Lord unless He possessed a body, neither could hell swallow Him up unless He bore our flesh; and so He came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which He received from the Virgin; in it He invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strong room and scattered all its treasures.

At length He came upon Eve, the mother of all the living. She was the vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of all the living became the source of death for every living creature. But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ, the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own destruction in the hidden life which that fruit contained. All unsuspecting, it swallowed Him up, and in so doing, released life itself and set free a multitude of men.

He Who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up His cross above death’s all consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord Whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, Who raised up Your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge, by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to You who put on the body of a single mortal man, and made it the source of immortality for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.

Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer Our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before Him Who offered His cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.”

Love,
Matthew

Sermon on the Passion of the Lord – Pope St Leo the Great


-Crucifixion, Lucas Cranach the Elder, one of his many

Pope Saint Leo the Great’s Sermon LV on the Passion of the Lord*

I. The difference between the penitence and blasphemy of the two robbers is a type of the human race.

… In speaking but lately of the LORD’S Passion, we reached the point in the Gospel story, where Pilate is said to have yielded to the…wicked shouts that Jesus should be crucified. And so when all things had been accomplished, which the Godhead veiled in frail flesh permitted, Jesus Christ the Son of GOD was fixed to the cross which He had also been carrying, two robbers being similarly crucified, one on His right hand, and the other on the left: so that even in the incidents of the cross might be displayed that difference which in His judgment must be made in the case of all men; for the believing robber’s faith was a type of those who are to be saved, and the blasphemer’s wickedness prefigured those who are to be damned.

Christ’s Passion, therefore, contains the mystery of our salvation, and of the instrument which the iniquity of the [people] prepared for His punishment, the Redeemer’s power has made for us the stepping-stone to glory: and that Passion the LORD Jesus so underwent for the salvation of all men that, while hanging there nailed to the wood, He entreated the Father’s mercy for His murderers, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

II. The chief priests showed utter ignorance of Scripture in their taunts.

But the chief priests, for whom the Saviour sought forgiveness, rendered the torture of the cross yet worse by the barbs of [mockery]; and at Him, on Whom they could vent no more fury with their hands, they hurled the weapons of their tongues, saying, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we believe Him.” From what spring of error, from what pool of hatred…do ye drink such poisonous blasphemies? What master informed you, what teaching convinced you that you ought to believe Him to be King of Israel and Son of GOD, who should either not allow Himself to be crucified, or should shake Himself free from the binding nails. The mysteries of the Law, the sacred observances of the Passover, the mouths of the Prophets never told you this: whereas you did find truly and oft-times written that which applies to your abominable wicked-doing and to the LORD’S voluntary suffering. For He Himself says by Isaiah, “I gave My back to the scourges, My cheeks to the palms of the hand, I turned not My face from the shame of spitting.” He Himself says by David, “They gave Me gall for My food, and in My thirst, they supplied Me with vinegar; and again, “Many dogs came about Me, the council of evil-doers beset Me. They pierced My hands and My feet, they counted all My bones. But they themselves watched and gazed on Me, they parted My raiment among them, and for My robe they cast lots.” And lest the course of your own evil doings should seem to have been foretold, and no power in the Crucified predicted, ye read not, indeed, that the LORD descended from the cross, but ye did read, “The LORD reigned on the tree.”

III. The triumph of the Cross is immediate and effective.

The Cross of Christ, therefore, symbolizes the true altar of prophecy, on which the oblation of man’s nature should be celebrated by means of a salvation-bringing Victim. There the blood of the spotless Lamb blotted out the consequences of the ancient trespass: there the whole tyranny of the devil’s hatred was crushed, and humiliation triumphed gloriously over the lifting up of pride: for so swift was the effect of Faith that, of the robbers crucified with Christ, the one who believed in Christ as the Son of GOD entered paradise justified. Who can unfold the mystery of so great a boon? Who can state the power of so wondrous a change? In a moment of time the guilt of long evil-doing is done away; clinging to the cross, amid the cruel tortures of his struggling soul, he passes over to Christ; and to him, on whom his own wickedness had brought punishment, Christ’s grace now gives a crown.

IV. When the last act in the tragedy was over, how must the [people] have felt?

And then, having now tasted the vinegar, the produce of that vineyard which had degenerated in spite of its Divine Planter, and had turned to the sourness of a foreign vine, the LORD says, “it is finished;” that is, the Scriptures are fulfilled: there is no more for Me to abide from the fury of the raging people: I have endured all that I foretold I should suffer. The mysteries of weakness are completed, let the proofs of power be produced. And so He bowed the head and yielded up His Spirit and gave that Body, Which should be raised again on the third day, the rest of peaceful slumber. And when the Author of Life was undergoing this mysterious phase, and at so great a condescension of GOD’S Majesty, the foundations of the whole world were shaken, when all creation condemned their wicked crime by its upheaval, and the very elements of the world delivered a plain verdict against the criminals, what thoughts, what heart-searchings…when the judgment of the universe went against you, and your wickedness could not be recalled, the crime having been done? What confusion covered you? What torment seized your hearts?

V. Chastity and charity are the two things most needful in preparing for Easter communion.

Seeing therefore, dearly-beloved, that GOD’S Mercy is so great, that He has deigned to justify by faith many even from among such a nation, and had adopted into the company of the patriarchs and into the number of the chosen people us who were once perishing in the deep darkness of our old ignorance, let us mount to the summit of our hopes not sluggishly nor in sloth; but prudently and faithfully reflecting from what captivity and from how miserable a bondage, with what ransom we were purchased, by how strong an arm led out, let us glorify GOD in our body: that we may show Him dwelling in us, even by the uprightness of our manner of life. And because no virtues are worthier or more excellent than merciful loving-kindness and unblemished chastity, let us more especially equip ourselves with these weapons, so that, raised from the earth, as it were on the two wings of active charity and shining purity, we may win a place in heaven. And whosoever, aided by GOD’S grace, is filled with this desire and glories not in himself, but in the LORD, over his progress, pays due honour to the Easter mystery. His threshold the angel of destruction does not cross, for it is marked with the Lamb’s blood and the sign of the cross. He fears not the plagues of Egypt, and leaves his foes overwhelmed by the same waters by which he himself was saved. And so, dearly-beloved, with minds and bodies purified let us embrace the wondrous mystery of our salvation, and, cleansed from all “the leaven of our old wickedness, let us keep” the LORD’S Passover with due observance: so that, the Holy Spirit guiding us, we may be “separated” by no temptations “from the love of Christ,” Who bringing peace by His blood to all things, has returned to the loftiness of the Father’s glory, and yet not forsaken the lowliness of those who serve Him to Whom is the honour and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Love, Blessed Good Friday,
Matthew

*Leo the Great. (1895). Sermons. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), C. L. Feltoe (Trans.), Leo the Great, Gregory the Great (Vol. 12a, pp. 167–168). New York: Christian Literature Company.

Stripping of the Altars: Holy Thursday & the English Reformation


-by David Warren

“As Christ was stripped of his garments, so the altars are stripped of their coverings in the traditional Maundy Thursday celebration. “They parted my garments amongst them: and upon my vesture they cast lots.” (Ps 22:18) Following hard upon this antiphon is the recitation of Psalm XXI (or, 22), the Deus meus: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”…”


-written 1086 AD, in both Irish Gaelic & Latin. The first and last line of each verse are in Latin, while the middle lines are in Irish (Gaelic). Written by the Donegal monk Maol Iosa O Brolchain.

Deus meus adiuva me
Tabhair dom do shearch,a Mhic ghil Dé
Tabhair dom do shearch,a Mhic ghil Dé
Deus meus adiuva me.

In meum cor, ut sanum sit,
Tabhair, a Rí rán, do ghrá go grip;
Tabhair, a Rí rán, do ghrá go grip,
In meum cor, ut sanum sit.

Domine da quod peto a te,
Tabhair dom go dian a ghrian ghlan ghlé,
Tabhair dom go dian a ghrian ghlan ghlé,
Domine da quod peto a te.

Hanc spero rem et quaero quam,
Do shearc dom sonn, do shearc dom thall;
Do shearc dom sonn, do shearc dom thall,
Hanc spero rem et quaero quam.

Tuum amorem, sicut vis,
Tabhair dom go tréan, a déarfad arís;
Tabhair dom go tréan, a déarfad arís,
Tuum amorem, sicut vis.

Quaero, postulo, peto a te,
Mo bheatha i neamh, a mhic dhil Dé;
Mo bheatha i neamh, a mhic dhil Dé,
Quaero, postulo, peto a te.

Domine, Domine, exaudi me,
M’anam bheith lán de d’ghrá, a Dhé,
M’anam bheith lán de d’ghrá, a Dhé,
Domine, Domine exaudi me.

Rough translation

My God, help me.
Give to me Your love,
O son of my God

Into my heart/soul, that it be healthy
Give, O noble king, Your love swiftly

Lord, give what I beg of You
Give, give swiftly, O clear bright sun

This thing I hope and which I seek
Your love to me in this world, Your love to me in the next world

Give me your love, as fully as You wish.
Give me strongly what I ask of You again.

I search, I desire, I beg of You
My life in heaven, dear Son of God
My God, hear me
My soul may (it) be full of love, O God

“…It is an arresting Psalm, with its shockingly exact prevision of the Crucifixion, centuries before the event took place. It was very much in my thoughts, about the time I “lost my faith” in Atheism, some forty-one years ago while crossing a footbridge in London, England – curiously enough on a Maundy Thursday.

On the first anniversary of that event, or more precisely, the next Maundy Thursday, I found myself in Saint Ives, Cornwall, with the great studio potter, Bernard Leach, then approaching his ninetieth birthday. (I, approaching my twenty-fourth.) He was a Baha’i, deeply committed to the marriage of East and West. Much of our conversation, which went on through Easter, was about “art,” about “religion,” and about “art and religion.”

Strangely, for a man who had fallen away from his Christian upbringing, he decried the loss of Christian belief in modern England, including particularly faith in the literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ. While saying this, he began reciting passages from that Psalm, dwelling with special emphasis on, “The assembly of the wicked have inclosed me. They pierced my hands and my feet.”

Now, in the teaching of Baha’u’llah, as Leach understood it, the New Testament is factually correct, and moreover, anyone who faithfully follows Christ’s teachings is ipso facto a Baha’i. This is not my understanding, but we will let it pass. I was struck by the sudden bold defense of Christian belief, from a most unlikely source.

“Without faith,” Leach argued, “art is a monkey’s game.” Conversely, I supposed, without art, religious ideas cannot be adequately expressed. This can be seen in all cultures: this departure from the commonplace, in the midst of the commonplace. Everywhere the divine is instinctively acknowledged in elevated language, and gesture. Liturgy – art – is essential to it.

It is more than mnemonic; the Last Supper itself is not merely “remembered” in the liturgical events of the Triduum, or in the repetitions of the daily Mass. As the Catholic Church has continued to teach, the Real Presence transcends the historical event. Yet the historical event remains true within it. These things really happened; and by their nature continue to happen in a world that was altered by the coming of Our Savior.

They remain true even if the truth is rejected, as it was in Christ’s time, is, and will be. We do not have “progress” in the profane sense; we do not have a progressive revelation. We have the truth of Christ, at the center of history and of our being, now and forever. He is what lifts us out of our mundane sinful lives, and conducts our attention to what is changeless, pure, and in every sense, higher. We return to this, or try to get away.

To escape: into a world of our own making, and into a life where in our vanity we think that we can make the rules. Hell, which is discernible from Earth, is the putting of the greatest possible distance between ourselves and God. It is the reason Pride is the queen bee in the hive of the deadly sins; and in humility, Love becomes its opposite, theological virtue. It is the reason Love is expressed in acts of holy obedience, as we are resplendently told in the Magnificat. The return, to truth, begins in the acceptance of God’s will, even in denial of our own.

“The Stripping of the Altars” was used as the title of a book by Eamon Duffy, which has now been in circulation for a quarter century. It is a remarkable revisionist history of the English Reformation, which to my mind has grown in significance over this time. It challenges the myth and propaganda that has guided our thinking in the English-speaking realms, and beyond them wherever our influence has been felt.

It is a variation, I think, on the pagan myth of Prometheus, who stole the divine fire, and put it at the service of his fellow man. In our variation, we have believed that the Catholic Church was tired and failing through the generations prior to a kind of “liberation”; that the Protestant faith emerged as a rekindling, a maturing, a coming of age in a spiritual Magna Carta. Henceforth we would no longer be captive to the authority of a dark and conniving priesthood, but free – to read the Scriptures for ourselves, to strip the churches of their encrusted decorations; to form our own judgments, and write our own prayers.

We all share in this history, going back to Henry VIII, and striding forward through the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I, when the medieval order was turned upside down, and the Catholic faith made capitally illegal. What Duffy showed, for this generation, as for instance Philip Hughes for an earlier one (in the three volumes of his Reformation in England, 1950 and 1963), was the evidence proving a huge, enduring, historical lie.

The old order was robust to the eve of this revolution, which was imposed by force. The resistance to it from the people was profound; yet it failed – in England as elsewhere – under the violence of an emerging political power, directing theology to its own ends. Liturgical destruction at every level, extending to the dissolution of monasteries, the smashing of images, the torching of medieval libraries – was necessary to the creation of a brave new world in which the Church was placed at the disposal of Caesar.

Yet all this is also prefigured, in the Psalm, and in Maundy Thursday’s stripping of the altars.”

Blessed Holy Thursday,
Matthew

Did the Apostles steal the body?

TESTIMONY: Matthew 27:62-66

The next day, the one following the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’ Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.

COMMENT

Matthew records how the chief priests and Pharisees asked Pilate to take measures to prevent Jesus’ followers from perpetrating a fraud. They feared that Jesus’ body would be stolen and then his disciples would pretend he had risen from the dead. Pilate allowed them to seal and secure the tomb themselves, and so they did.

HOSTILE WITNESS

In his 1965 best-seller The Passover Plot, Hugh Schonfeld popularized what is called the “Swoon Theory,” which teaches that Christ’s resurrection was not a resurrection at all, but a resuscitation. According to this theory, Jesus never died—he was only wounded and unconscious. After spending time in the tomb, he revived, unwrapped his burial cloths, rolled back the stone, and appeared to the apostles (who misinterpreted his reappearance as a resurrection).

Our hostile witnesses’ actions as described in Matthew 27:62-66, above, speak against this theory. They knew that Jesus was dead. Their concern was keeping Jesus’ followers out of the tomb, not keeping him in.

In addition to giving counter-testimony to the Swoon Theory, our hostile witnesses provide indirect evidence in another dispute: whether the prodigies described in Matthew 27:51-54 as having occurred during Christ’s crucifixion actually happened.

To settle that dispute, let’s start with this: As far as we can tell, there was no widespread expectation that Jesus would rise on the third day. The Jews generally understood that the Messiah would “[remain] forever” (John 12:34), and that the only resurrection which would take place would be at the end of time. This belief was so widespread and ingrained that even after Jesus repeatedly told His own disciples that He would rise, they failed to comprehend it (Mark 9:10; Luke 18:31-34; John 2:22, 13:7). Christ’s death on the cross, then, should have ended any hope that He was the Messiah, just as happened with the dozen or so pseudo-messiahs after their deaths.

Given all this, did the Jewish leaders really have any reason to fear that Jesus’ disciples, who were in hiding, could convince the populace that He rose from the dead? Yet the Jewish leaders feared exactly that, and took measures to prevent it. Why? What could have possibly have happened after the crucifixion to convince the very people who jeered at Jesus on the cross that He might rise from the dead after all?

Matthew’s account of prodigies when Christ died (darkness at noon, earthquake, open tombs, temple veil torn, etc.) just might provide the answer. Could it be that whatever expectations that were dashed when Jesus died were brought to life again by these strange occurrences (Matt. 27:54; Mark 15:39)? If these things did occur, the crowd that witnessed them would have been moved to see that Jesus was something more than just a charismatic teacher or even a prophet, and their expectations would have been raised that perhaps He would rise again as He claimed. This would also explain our hostile witnesses’ otherwise unfounded fear that Christ’s disciples could convince the populace that He did rise. Hence the measures taken by the Jewish leaders to ensure that Christ’s disciples couldn’t tamper with His body.

THE EMPTY TOMB

TESTIMONY: Matthew 28:12-15

They assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him while we were asleep.’ And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy [him] and keep you out of trouble.” The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present [day].

COMMENT

The directions given to the guards were both necessary and self-contradictory. The well-trained, fully-armed detachment could easily have fended off the disciples had they attempted to steal Christ’s body. The only way the disciples could have succeeded would have been to steal the body while the guards were asleep. But this is highly unlikely. After all, this wasn’t the first time Roman soldiers had set up a watch. Surely they took precautions to ensure that someone was always awake and on duty. Even if they all did fall asleep, it beggars belief that the disciples could have broken the seal and rolled a large stone away from its entrance without waking anyone

HOSTILE WITNESS

Our hostile witnesses affirm two very important facts. First, the tomb really was empty. Obviously, they wouldn’t have needed to bribe the guards if Jesus’ body remained in the tomb. Second, they provide what appears to be the earliest official explanation by nonbelievers of the empty tomb: The disciples stole the body.

The report that the disciples had stolen the body in order to perpetrate a fraud could have made it up the Roman chain of command; our hostile witnesses seem to have anticipated this when they offered to bribe not only the guards, but if necessary the guards’ superiors. As we will see later, there is evidence that such a report did make its way to the ear of the emperor, provoking an official rescript to prohibit the removal of dead bodies from tomb with ill intent.”

Love, He is Risen!!! Praise Him!!!
Matthew