Let us lift up our voices high;
Let us lift up our voices high;
Are you thinking about the Transfiguration yet? You know, tomorrow’s feast. I think an excerpt from Samuel H. Miller’s The Life of the Church (p. 44ff) gets me pondering the person of Christ and who I want to be. And you?
The official preacher to the pope, but not an official of the Holy See, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preached this homily to the Holy Father (and thus to the world) at the Good Friday Service. The preacher’s has received much criticism –VERY unfairly in my opinion if you read what he said– from the secular world, from Catholics who live on the margins of the Faith and others like the Jews for the points of comparisons made therein. It is not a perfect text and nor is it prudent in some places, but it needs to be engaged with faith and reason and not broken into pieces and read out of context. Read the text!!! The problem is that the sound bites we receive from the media become the only criteria of assessing whether something is good, worthy or acceptable for consumption whereas reason would want to hear the whole thing, even to re-read what was said before making foolish comments. Does the imperfect always mean bad? Father Cantalmessa is an evocative and provocative thinker and preacher. I think he deserves a fair hearing without the spin given in the media.
Father Raniero’s homily can be read here Good Friday homily 2010.pdf.
God the Father has exalted
Jesus Christ, the Lord of all,
Who has emptied self of glory,
Took our human nature’s thrall;
In obedience, He was humbled
Taking even cross and death;
Now creation shouts in wonder
“Christ is Lord” with ev’ry breath!
As the Cross is boldly
And the faithful now embrace
What was once a thing so shameful,
Now the hope of all our race,
Let us, marked with Cross, and
Shout this news throughout the earth:
Through the Cross, our God has conquered!
Through it, come to His new birth!
87.87. D, no tune
James Michael Thompson, (c) 2009, World Library Publications
There was a day when Nietzsche was right: God was dead, the Word was not heard in the world, the body was interred and the tomb sealed up, the soul descended into the bottomless abyss of Sheol.” This descent of Jesus into the kingdom of the dead “was part of his abasement even if (as St. John admits of the Cross) this supreme abasement is already surrounded by the thunderbolts of Easter night. In fact, did not the very descent to hell bring redemption to the souls there?” It prolonged in some manner the cry from the Cross: Why have you abandoned me? “Nobody could ever shout that cry from a deeper abyss than did he whose life was to be perpetually born of the Father.”
But there remains the imitation of Christ. There is a participation, not only sacramental, but contemplative in his mystery. There is an experience of the abandonment on the Cross and the descent into hell, and experience of the poena damni. There is the crushing feeling of the “ever greater dissimilarity” of God in the resemblance, however great, between him and the creature; there is the passage through death and darkness, the stepping through “the somber door”. In conformity to the mission he has received, the prayerful man then experiences the feeling that “God is dead for him”. And this is a gift of Christian grace — but one receives it unawares. The lived and felt faith, charity, and hope rise above the soul to an inaccessible place, to God. From then on it is “in nakedness, poverty and humiliation” that the soul cries out to him.
Those who have experienced such states afterwards, more often than not, in their humility, see nothing in them but a personal purification. True to his doctrine which refuses to separate charisms and gifts of the Holy Spirit, the ecclesial mission, and individual mysticism, von Balthasar discerns in it essentially this “Holy Saturday of contemplation” by which the Betrothed, in some chosen few of her members, is made to participate more closely in the redemption wrought by the Spouse. We have arrived at a time in history when human consciousness, enlarged and deepened by Christianity, inclines more and more to this interpretation.
The somber experience of Holy Saturday is the price to be paid for the dawn of the new spring of hope, this spring which has been “canonized in the rose garden of Lisieux”: “is it not the beginning of a new creation? The magic of Holy Saturday … Deep cave from which the water of life escapes.”
Reading so many passages where this theme is taken up, we discern a distress, a solitude, a night — of the quality, in fact, as that experienced by “the Heart of the world” — and we understand that a work that communicates so full a joy must have been conceived in that sorrow.
Cardinal Henri de Lubac on the work of Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar