Tag Archives: lent

Christ the Grain that Dies and Yields Much Fruit

Commentary on the Book of Numbers

Saint Cyril of Alexandria


As the first-fruits of our renewed humanity, Christ escaped the curse of the law precisely by becoming accursed for our sake. He overcame the forces of corruption by himself becoming once more “free among the dead.” He trampled death under foot and came to life again, and then he ascended to the Father as an offering, the first-fruits, as it were, of the human race. “He ascended,” as Scripture says, “not to a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the real one, but into heaven itself, to appear in God’s presence on our behalf.” He is the life-giving bread that came down from heaven, and by offering Himself to God the Father as a fragrant sacrifice for our sake, he also delivers us from our sins and frees us from the faults that we commit through ignorance.


Grain of Wheat.jpgThe human race may be compared to spikes of wheat in a field, rising, as it were, from the earth, awaiting their full growth and development, and then in time being cut down by the reaper, which is death. The comparison is apt, since Christ Himself spoke of our race in this way when He said to His holy disciples: “Do you not say, ‘Four months and it will be harvest time?’ Look at the fields I tell you, they are already white and ready for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving his wages and bringing in a crop for eternal life.”


Now Christ became like one of us; He sprang from the holy Virgin like a spike of wheat from the ground. Indeed, He spoke of Himself as a grain of wheat when he said: “I tell you truly, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains as it was, a single grain; but if it dies its yield is very great.” And so, like a sheaf of grain, the first-fruits, as it were, of the earth, he offered Himself to the Father for our sake.


For we do not think of a spike of wheat, any more than we do of ourselves, in isolation. We think of it rather as part of a sheaf, which is a single bundle made up of many spikes. The spikes have to be gathered into a bundle before they can be used, and this is the key to the mystery they represent, the mystery of Christ who, though one, appears in the image of a sheaf to made up of many, as in fact he is. Spiritually, He contains in Himself all believers. “As we have been raised up with Him,” writes Saint Paul, “so we have also been enthroned with Him in heaven.” He is a human being like ourselves, and this has made us one body with Him, the body being the bond that unites us. We can say, therefore, that in Him we are all one, and indeed He Himself says to God, His heavenly Father: “It is my desire that as I and You are one, so they also may be one in us.”

Vexilla Regis, The Royal Banner forward goes

The Royal Banner forward goes,
Vexilla Regis.jpgThe mystic Cross refulgent glows:
Where He, in Flesh, flesh who made,
Upon the Tree of pain is laid.


Behold! The nails with anguish fierce,
His outstretched arms and vitals pierce:
Here our redemption to obtain,
The Mighty Sacrifice is slain.


Here the fell spear his wounded side
With ruthless onset opened wide:
To wash us in that cleansing flood,
Thence mingled Water flowed, and Blood.


Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song, of old:
Unto the nations, lo! saith he,
Our God hath reignèd from the Tree.


O Tree! In radiant beauty bright!
With regal purple meetly dight!
Thou chosen stem! divinely graced,
Which hath those Holy Limbs embraced!


How blest thine arms, beyond compare,
Which Earth’s Eternal Ransom bare!
That Balance where His Body laid,
The spoil of vanquished Hell outweighed.


O Cross! all hail! sole hope, abide
With us now in this Passion-tide:
New grace in pious hearts implant,
And pardon to the guilty grant!


Hail wondrous Altar! Victim hail!
Thy Glorious Passion shall avail!
Where death Life’s very Self endured,
Yet life by that same Death secured.


Thee, mighty Trinity! One God!
Let every living creature laud;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost deliver,
O guide and govern now and ever! Amen.


Translation from “The Psalter of Sarum”: London 1852.


Tonight we sang this hymn, in translation of course. The hymn “Vexilla Regis” was composed by Saint Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) and considered by many to be one of the greatest of the sacred Liturgy. “Vexilla Regis” was composed for the reception of a Relic of the True Cross by Queen Radegunda for her monastery church at near Poitiers, France. A processional hymn “Vexilla Regis” is sung when the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the repository to the altar on Good Friday. It is the proper Vespers hymn sung from Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The Church sings it at Vespers from the First Vespers of the 5th Sunday of Lent until the Wednesday of Holy Week.

The Cross is an expression of Life

cross.jpgIn the Bible the cross is the expression of a life that is completely being for others. It is not man who goes to God with a compensatory gift, but God who comes to man, in order to give to him. He restores disturbed right on the initiative of his own power to love, by making unjust man just again, the dead living again, through his own creative mercy.


In the New Testament the cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God, but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way about.


Pope Benedict XVI

Being rooted in the Lord is the best thing

The reading at Lauds this morning is both apropos for Lent and for the Solemnity of Saint Benedict. Father Abbot, decorated with a beautiful pectoral cross of ancient days, read Sirach 2:1-18. Without knowing at first where the reading came from, I first thought it to be from one of the Fathers of the Church, or even Pope Benedict; all of what Sirach speaks of resonates strongly for me because it corresponds with what I’ve experienced and know deeply in my heart, and I hope it’s the similarly for you. The text follows:


Sirach.jpgMy son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation. Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be hasty in time of calamity. Cleave to him and do not depart, that you may be honored at the end of your life. Accept whatever is brought upon you, and in changes that humble you be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.


Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him. You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; and turn not aside, lest you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not fail; you who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for everlasting joy and mercy. Consider the ancient generations and see: who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame? Or who ever persevered in the fear of the Lord and was forsaken? Or who ever called upon him and was overlooked? For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in time of affliction.


Woe to timid hearts and to slack hands, and to the sinner who walks along two ways! Woe to the faint heart, for it has no trust! Therefore it will not be sheltered. Woe to you who have lost your endurance! What will you do when the Lord punishes you? Those who fear the Lord will not disobey his words, and those who love him will keep his ways. Those who fear the Lord will seek his approval, and those who love him will be filled with the law. Those who fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and will humble themselves before him. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, but not into the hands of men; for as his majesty is, so also is his mercy.

Way of the Cross CD with Liam Neeson Available

Way of the Cross LNeeson.jpgLiam Neeson, one of the leading international motion picture actors of our day, reads the Introduction, written by Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, and the 14 Stations of the Cross. The 14 Stations and prayers are taken from the classic text, The Way of the Cross according to the Method of St. Alphonsus Liguori, the great 18th century Italian saint, doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists. This text is used by Catholics around the world to retrace the footsteps of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.  


“I had heard about the Redemptorists and their missionary work in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil and in the slums of Lagos and Ibadan, Nigeria,” Liam Neeson said. “I was moved to help because the Redemptorists are living the Gospel message in some of the poorest parts of the world, offering hope to families who have been forgotten or abandoned.”


The Very Reverend Father Thomas D. Picton, provincial superior of the Denver Province said: “It combines the unmistakable voice of Liam Neeson, the glorious hymns of our founder, Saint Alphonsus Liguori (first time being heard in the U.S.), and the brilliant orchestration done by Ray Herrmann, a Grammy-award winner and arguably the world’s finest Catholic recording artist.”


Ray Herrmann, co-founder of Little Lamb Music, has spent the last 20 years playing with and arranging music for some of the biggest names in American music, including: Diana Ross, Chicago, Bob Dylan, Santana, LeeAnn Rimes, Stevie Wonder, George Benson and Herbie Hancock. Ray is also in the house band on the hit television show, American Idol.


Proceeds from the sale of the CD support the work of the Redemptorist missions in Brazil and Nigeria .


To order the CD go to: www.littlelambmusic.com or call (800) 231-1207

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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