Tag Archives: lent

…one must not sleep during this time…the sacred Triduum is upon us

Crucifixion Giotto.jpgHow marvelous, and at the same time amazing, is this mystery! We can never meditate this reality sufficiently. Jesus, though being God, did not want to make of his divine prerogatives an exclusive possession; he did not want to use his being God, his glorious dignity and power, as an instrument of triumph and sign of distance from us. On the contrary, “he emptied himself” assuming our miserable and weak human condition –in this regard, Paul uses a quite meaningful Greek verb to indicate the kenosis, this descent of Jesus. The divine form (morphe) is hidden in Christ under the human form, namely, under our reality marked by suffering, poverty, human limitations and death. The radical and true sharing of our nature, a sharing in everything except sin, leads him to that frontier that is the sign of our finiteness  –death. But all this was not the fruit of a dark mechanism or a blind fatality: It was instead his free choice, by his generous adherence to the salvific plan of the Father. And the death which he went out to meet –adds Paul– was that of the cross, the most humiliating and degrading that one can imagine. The Lord of the universe did all this out of love for us: out of love he willed to “empty himself” and make himself our brother; out of love he shared our condition, that of every man and every woman. In this connection, Theodoret of Cyrus, a great witness of the Eastern tradition, writes: “Being God and God by nature and having equality with God, he did not retain this as something great, as do those who have received some honor beyond their merits, but concealing his merits, he chose the most profound humility and took the form of a human being” (Commentary on the Letter to the Philippians, 2:6-7).

Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday General Audience, 8 April 2009, excerpt

Not only the Passion but the Resurrection

Ambrose.jpgSaint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, reminds us of this: ‘We must observe not only the day of the Passion, but the day of the Resurrection as well. Thus, we will have a day of bitterness and a day of joy; on the one let us fast, on the other let us seek refreshment…During this Sacred Triduum…Christ suffered, rested and rose from the dead. Of that three day period he himself says: ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Epistle 23).

Our Lenten observances, indeed our whole life of faith, have been a preparation for this celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery, our redemption from sin. May all of us bear witness to this joy in our daily lives; not only now but all through the year. And may our celebration of the Triduum be a time to reflect on our redemption through Christ, the eternal gift to us sinners from God the Father.

Spy Wednesday

Kiss Of Judas Giotto.jpgToday we recall the words Jesus spoke to Judas at the Last Supper, “The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24). Judas has become is synonymous with the act of betrayal. In the Inferno, Dante places Judas in the very lowest circle of Hell, being devoured eternally by a three-faced, bat-winged devil:

 

 

When we had gotten far enough along
that my master was pleased to let me see
the creature who was once so fair of face
he took a step aside, then brought me to a halt:
‘Look there at Dis! And see the place
where you must arm yourself with fortitude.’
Then how faint and frozen I became,
reader, do not ask, for I do not write it,
since any words would fail to be enough.
It was not death, nor could one call it life.
Imagine, if you have the wit,
what I became, deprived of both.
The emperor of the woeful kingdom
rose from the ice below his breast,
and I in size am closer to a giant
than giants are when measured to his arms.
Judge, then, what the whole must be
that is proportional to such a part.
If he was fair as he is hideous now,
and raised his brow in scorn of his creator,
he is fit to be the source of every sorrow.
Oh, what a wonder it appeared to me
when I perceived three faces on his head.
The first, in front, was red in color.
Another two he had, each joined with this,
above the midpoint of each shoulder,
and all the three united at the crest.
The one on the right was a whitish yellow,
while the left-hand one was tinted like the people
living at the sources of the Nile.

Judas Bottechelli.jpgBeneath each face two mighty wings emerged,
such as befit so vast a bird:
I never saw such massive sails at sea.
They were featherless and fashioned
like a bat’s wings. When he flapped them,
he sent forth three separate winds,
the sources of the ice upon Cocytus
.
Out of six eyes he wept and his three chins
dripped tears and drooled blood-red saliva.
With his teeth, just like a hackle
pounding flax, he champed a sinner
in each mouth, tormenting three at once.
For the one in front the gnawing was a trifle
to the clawing, for from time to time
his back was left with not a shred of skin.
‘That soul up there who bears the greatest pain,’
said the master, ‘is Judas Iscariot, who has
his head within and outside flails his legs
.
‘As for the other two, whose heads are dangling down,
Brutus is hanging from the swarthy snout —
see how he writhes and utters not a word! —
‘and from the other, Cassius, so large of limb.
But night is rising in the sky. It is time
for us to leave, for we have seen it all.’ (Canto XXXIV)

Judas tree.jpg 

According to the pious legend, the tree upon which Judas hanged himself was the Cercis siliquastrum, also called the “Judas Tree.” It is a beautiful tree, native to the Mediterranean region, which produces brilliant deep pink flowers in the spring; the flowers are said to have blushed in shame after Judas’s suicide.

Of That Branch in Ancient Garden

Of that branch in ancient garden,


branch cross crown.jpgdid thy Father make thy tree,

on that tree with thee uplifted,

let us triumph, Lord, with thee.


On that tree with thee uplifted,

let us triumph, Lord, with thee.

 

By thy words on road to passion,

Words that set thy children free,

Thou the Vine and we the branches,

let us triumph, Lord, with thee.

Thou the Vine and we the branches,

let us triumph, Lord, with thee.

 

To thy Father be all glory,

Equal glory, Lord, to thee,

By Spirit’s equal glory,

let us triumph, Lord, with thee.

By Spirit’s equal glory

let us triumph, Lord, with thee.

Keeping our eyes upon Christ in His Passion

In his Sermon on Palm Sunday Blessed Guerric of Igny (d. ca. 1157), tells us:

When Jesus entered Jerusalem like a triumphant conqueror, many were astonished at the majesty of his bearing; but when a short while afterward he entered upon his passion, his appearance was ignoble, an object of derision. If today’s procession and passion are considered together, in the one Jesus appears as sublime and glorious, in the other as lowly and suffering. The procession makes us think of the honor reserved for a king, whereas the passion shows us the punishment due a thief. 


palm sunday2.jpgIn the one Jesus is surrounded by glory and honor, in the other “he has neither dignity nor beauty.” In the one his is the joy of men and women and the glory of the people, in the other “the butt of men and the laughing stock of the people.” In the one he receives the acclamation: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes as the king of Israel”; in the other there are shouts that he is guilty of death and he is reviled for having set himself up as king of Israel.

 

In the procession the people meet Jesus with palm branches, in the passion people slap him in the face and strike his head with a rod. In the one they extol him with praises, in the other they heap insults upon him. In the one the people compete to lay their clothes in his path, in the other he is stripped of his own clothes. In the one he is welcomed to Jerusalem as a just king and savior, in the other he is thrown out of the city as criminal, condemned as an imposter. In the one he is mounted on an ass and accorded every mark of honor, in the other he hangs on the wood of the cross, torn by whips, pierced with wounds and abandoned by his own. If, then, we want to follow our leader without stumbling through prosperity and through adversity, let us keep our eyes upon him, honored in the procession, undergoing ignominy and suffering in the passion, yet unshakeably steadfast in all such changes of fortune.

 

Lord Jesus, you are the joy and salvation of the whole world; whether we see you seated on an ass or hanging on the cross, let each one of us bless and praise you, so that when we see you reigning on high we may praise you forever and ever, for to you belong praise and honor through all ages. Amen.

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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