Lent & Holy Week: April 2011 Archives

The Church is silent. The Lord is dead; His mother and the Beloved disciple have buried the Lord. We carry on in sorrow, our hearts are quiet and searching for the one who made the promise that things would be different if we believed in Him. Holy Saturday is a distinct day in the Church. Good Friday totally transforms us from something old to something new, this is a time of patient awareness that it is not business as usual. If it is, if we can't see that our real lives are not the same, then we need to beg the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother to show the reasons why life is different now with Jesus crucified and in the tomb. 

Pope Benedict's meditation at the Colosseum lst evening gives us focus:

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This evening, in faith, we have accompanied Jesus as he takes the final steps of his earthly journey, the most painful steps, the steps that lead to Calvary. We have heard the cries of the crowd, the words of condemnation, the insults of the soldiers, the lamentation of the Virgin Mary and of the women. Now we are immersed in the silence of this night, in the silence of the cross, the silence of death. It is a silence pregnant with the burden of pain borne by a man rejected, oppressed, downtrodden, the burden of sin which mars his face, the burden of evil. Tonight we have re-lived, deep within our hearts, the drama of Jesus, weighed down by pain, by evil, by human sin.

Cantalamessa.jpgThe papal preacher preaches to the Pope each Good Friday. A distinction not given to many. The renown Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said many good things to think about, not a few points that are crucial to our own witness of the Gospel, a few are given here now. The link to his homily is given below.

There is a truth that must be proclaimed loud and clear on Good Friday. The One whom we contemplate on the cross is God "in person." Yes, he is also the man Jesus of Nazareth, but that man is one person with the Son of the Eternal Father. As long as the fundamental dogma of the Christian faith is not recognized and taken seriously -- the first dogma defined at Nicea, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and is himself God, of one substance with the Father -- human suffering will remain unanswered.

The response of the cross is not for us Christians alone, but for everyone, because the Son of God died for all. There is in the mystery of redemption an objective and a subjective aspect. There is the fact in itself, and then awareness of the fact and our faith-response to it. The first extends beyond the second. "The Holy Spirit," says a text of Vatican II, "offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery."

One thing distinguishes genuine accounts of martyrdom from legendary ones composed later, after the end of the persecutions. In the former, there is almost no trace of polemics against the persecutors; all attention is concentrated on the heroism of the martyrs, not on the perversity of the judges and executioners. St. Cyprian even ordered his followers to give twenty-five gold coins to the executioner who beheaded him. These are the disciples of the one who died saying: "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." Truly, "Jesus' blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment; it brings reconciliation."

Read the papal preacher's homily in full here: Fr Cantalamessa Good Friday homily 2011.pdf

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Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture: "I thirst." A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

"I thirst." "It is finished." With these two phrases Jesus, looking first to humanity and then to the Father, bequeaths to us the burning passion at the heart of his person and mission: love for man and obedience to the Father. His is a love both horizontal and vertical: in the shape of the cross! And at the intersection of this twofold love, at the place where Jesus bows his head, the Holy Spirit wells up, the first fruits of his return to the Father.

This final breath which brings Jesus' life to completion evokes the work of creation, which now is redeemed. But it is also a summons to all of us who believe in him to "bring to completion in our own flesh what is lacking in Christ's afflictions". That all may be complete!

Lord Jesus, who died for our sake!
You ask, that you may give,
you die, that you may leave a legacy,
and thus you make us see that the gift of self
opens a space for unity.
Pardon the gall of our rejection and unbelief,
pardon the deafness of our hearts
to your cry of thirst
which echoes in the suffering of our many brothers and sisters.

Come, Holy Spirit,
parting gift of the Son who dies for us:
may you be the guide who "leads us into all the truth"
and "the root which sustains us in unity"!

Last supper detail Duccio.jpgHere we are: Spy Wednesday, the eve of the sacred Triduum. Lent is about to end and we're entering into a liturgical period and facing the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The term "Spy Wednesday" is not heard often these but we get the point: the struggle between life and death, sin and grace, friendship and betrayal, good and evil.

Jesus shares the Passover meal his closest collaborators, he was having "Communio" with his friends and not strangers and one among them has already set in motion the process of betrayal. The intimacy once shared vigorously is now betrayed; it is one of the most terrible experiences any person can live through.

Spy Wednesday is not a day to point the finger at someone else's problem. It's a day to examine the soul to understand the ways we've betrayed Christ in simple and also likely profound ways. There is portion of Judas in all of us. While we may not have used 30 pieces of silver but perhaps we've opened the door to evil.

How different are you going to live today?

Pope Benedict is nothing if not a master of the spiritual life and superb pastor of souls. His Palm Sunday homily delivered earlier today is extraordinarily beautiful for its content and style , but most importantly it gives us a path to Jesus. He's not giving a legacy; he's giving us truth.

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It is a moving experience each year on Palm Sunday as we go up the mountain with Jesus, towards the Temple, accompanying him on his ascent. On this day, throughout the world and across the centuries, young people and people of every age acclaim him, crying out: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

But what are we really doing when we join this procession as part of the throng which went up with Jesus to Jerusalem and hailed him as King of Israel? Is this anything more than a ritual, a quaint custom? Does it have anything to do with the reality of our life and our world? To answer this, we must first be clear about what Jesus himself wished to do and actually did. After Peter's confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi, in the northernmost part of the Holy Land, Jesus set out as a pilgrim towards Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. He was journeying towards the Temple in the Holy City, towards that place which for Israel ensured in a particular way God's closeness to his people. He was making his way towards the common feast of Passover, the memorial of Israel's liberation from Egypt and the sign of its hope of definitive liberation. He knew that what awaited him was a new Passover and that he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. He knew that in the mysterious gifts of bread and wine he would give himself for ever to his own, and that he would open to them the door to a new path of liberation, to fellowship with the living God. He was making his way to the heights of the Cross, to the moment of self-giving love. The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being.

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All week many of us who work in a parish have kept the events of Holy Week in front of us. Mostly because of the work that needs to be done in preparing the sacred Liturgy. Sadly, not enough time for prayer. Reminder: Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion is this weekend, it is not only the liturgical memorial of the Lord's move to Jerusalem, it is also our hour of judgment. Jesus is not one among many saviors. Jesus is THE Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God who opens the door to God the Father and redeems us. No one, absolutely no one, can avoid the Lord's hour of supreme love and self-giving in dying on the cross. It is, for us Christians, the tree of life.

Too many people these days have difficulty in accepting a positive view of Christ dying on the cross. Far from their hearts are Pope Leo's words: "How marvelous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion." Here's Pope Saint Leo the Great's Sermon on the Passion:

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Our understanding, which is enlightened by the Spirit of truth, should receive with purity and freedom of heart the glory of the cross as it shines in heaven and on earth. It should see with inner vision the meaning of the Lord's words when he spoke of the imminence of his passion: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Afterward he said: Now my soul is troubled, and what am I to say? Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your Son. When the voice of the Father came from heaven, saying, I have glorified him, and will glorify him again, Jesus said in reply to those around him: It was not for me that this voice spoke, but for you. Now is the judgment of the world, now will the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.

How marvelous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgment-seat of the Lord, the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified.

Lord, you drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.

Now there is a more distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a more sacred anointing for the priesthood, because your cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonour, life from death.

The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of your body and blood is the fulfillment of all the different sacrificial offerings, for you are the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the world. In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one kingdom gathered from all peoples.

Raising of Lazarus Giotto.jpgThe raising of Lazarus from the dead not only restores Lazarus to life, a life with his family and friends, but he begins a new life on earth because of his relationship with Jesus. The gaze of his friend Jesuson Lazarus is one of profound emotion and penetrating teaching. There's no question that something unique happened to Lazarus because on the Lord's journey to Jerusalem to face his own passover from life to Life. This is a final act of Jesus before he walks the via Dolorosa. But what does Lazarus's new new life and Jesus' own resurrection say to us today?

Lazarus' human life is not permanent even after divine intervention for he will definitively die at the proper time. But the gift of new life --in a normal sense-- gives us the awareness that life is anything but ordinary for those who know the Lord. It identifies our own aspiration for eternal life with Him. We are changed by meeting the Lord "which breaks through and overcomes every barrier! Christ breaks down the wall of death, and in Him there resides the fullness of God, which is life, eternal life. Therefore death had no power over Him; the resurrection of Lazarus is a sign of his full dominion over mortal death, which is like sleep before God."

Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.

Lætáre Jerúsalem :et convéntum fáciteómnes qui dilígitis éam: gaudéte cum lætítia, qui in tristítia fuístis: ut exsultétis, et satiémini abubéribus consolatiónis véstræ.

Psalm verse: I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord.

Lætátus sum in his quæ dícta sunt míhi: in dómum Dómini íbimus.

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The Mass prayers and Divine Office for today was written particularly for Laetare Sunday and for the Roman Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem). You can go to Jerusalem without having to leave Rome when you visit this basilica! I had the great joy of spending a month with the Cistercian monks of Santa Croce in 2007 and celebrating today's feast with them. The monks pastorally administer the basilica which contain the relics of the Holy Passion of Lord and the mortal of remains of the Servant of God, Nenolina Melo.

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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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Lent & Holy Week category from April 2011.

Lent & Holy Week: March 2011 is the previous archive.

Lent & Holy Week: February 2012 is the next archive.

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