The tradition of the liturgical year of the Church assigns Wednesday of Holy Week as the day that Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Dom Gueranger, the great Benedictine liturgical scholar, offers this hymn from the Greek liturgy that describes the whole incident and is a moving account of this horrible treachery.
On this day, Judas leaves his Master, and takes the devil for his guide. The love of money blinds him. He fell from the light, he became darkened: for how could he be said to see, who sold the Light for thirty pieces of silver? But to us he that suffered for the world has risen: let us thus cry out unto him: Glory be to thee, who didst endure thy Passion, and hadst compassion on mankind.
What was it, O Judas! that lead thee to betray Jesus? Had he cut thee off from the number of his apostles? Had he deprived thee of the gift of healing the sick? When he supped with his apostles did he drive thee from table? When he washed their feet, did he pass thee by? And yet thou wast unmindful of these great favours! Thy ungrateful plot has branded thee with infamy: but his incomparable patience and great mercy are everywhere praised.
Say, O ye unjust ones! what is it ye have heard from our Saviour? Did he not expound unto you the Law and the Prophets? Why therefore, have ye plotted how to deliver up to Pilate the Word that is from God, and that came to redeem our souls?
They that enjoyed thy unceasing gifts cried out: 'Let him be crucified!'These murderers of such as were innocent, sought thee, that they might treat thee, their benefactor, as an evil-doer. But thou, O Christ! didst bear their wickedness with silence; for thou, being the lover of mankind, didst desire to suffer for and save us.
We are prevented from speaking by the multitude of our sins: do thou, O Virgin-Mother of God! pray for us to him that was born of thee, for the Mother's prayer avails much with the mercy of our Lord. Despise not O most pure Virgin! the prayers of sinners, for he that refused not even to suffer for us, is merciful, and is able to save us.
Today, as always, we have Judas' in our midst; those who, for whatever reason, betray our Lord anew. In these days of false accusations, distortions, and contempt of our dear Holy Father, Pope Benedict, let us pray that the evil one will be prevented from further harm to him, the Vicar of Christ and Successor of Saint Peter, and to Holy Church. The enemies of God, the Truth, and the Church are busy; let's get even busier by our prayer, penance and love.
Image: http://blog.adw.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/spywednesdaypainting.jpg Text of the Greek hymn: from Dom Gueranger, "The Liturgical Year", vol. 6, Passiontide and Holy Week, Loreto Publications.
Yesterday, the Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent, we heard these words of St. Gregory Nazianzen, in the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours:
We are soon going to share in the Passover
We are soon going to share in the Passover, and although we still do so only in a symbolic way, the symbolism already has more clarity than it possessed in former times because, under the law, the Passover was, if I may dare to say so, only a symbol of a symbol. Before long, however, when the Word drinks the new wine with us in the kingdom of his Father, we shall be keeping the Passover in a yet more perfect way, and with deeper understanding. He will then reveal to us and make clear what he has so far only partially disclosed. For this wine, so familiar to us now, is eternally new. It is for us to learn what this drinking is, and for him to teach us. He has to communicate this knowledge to his disciples, because teaching is food, even for the teacher. So let us take our part in the Passover prescribed by the law, not in a literal way, but according to the teaching of the Gospel; not in an imperfect way, but perfectly; not only for a time, but eternally. Let us regard as our home the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one; the city glorified by angels, not the one laid waste by armies. We are not required to sacrifice young bulls or rams, beasts with horns and hoofs that are more dead than alive and devoid of feeling; but instead, let us join the choirs of angels in offering God upon his heavenly altar a sacrifice of praise. We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second, turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies. I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honouring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified. If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy. If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshipped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.
Today, Passion (Palm) Sunday, we celebrated the Triumphant Entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem and then heard the Gospel account of His Passion. It is the beginning of Holy Week, the most blessed and glorious week of the liturgical year. Our honoring of Jesus as the King of Glory is not merely an historical remembrance, but a present and future manifestation of His Kingship over us. The palms, blessed and taken home to be placed in honor of the Lord, the King of Kings, are signs of His Kingdom among us. And, a sign of the future glory that we are called to as His followers, a future that will be the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, where He is Lord, He is worshipped and glorified for all eternity. Our palms are signs of the palms we will carry into the New Jerusalem, where there will be no death, no suffering, no tears, no separations.
The palms are also a sacramental that give the prayer of the Church a "place" wherever they are displayed with love and devotion. The Extraordinary Form prayer for the blessing of palms says that the power of the evil one is overcome by the presence of these signs of Jesus' victory over sin and death and wherever they are treated with love and devotion, the reign of Jesus is brought to reality.
Powerful words. May the graces of this day, of this week, come to you all. Make this time a very special remembrance of the Passion of the Lord; go to confession, go to Mass and Holy Communion, if you are able. If you cannot attend Mass, make a spiritual communion and ask Jesus to come to you. Try to attend the Sacred Triduum, the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, the Celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Mass on the night of Holy Saturday.
And pray for our dear Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who is being harassed each day and calumniated by the secular press. He is, as Saint Catherine of Siena called the Pope, "our Sweet Christ on earth," the Vicar of Christ and Successor of Saint Peter. Pray for his strength, his health, his perseverance in these dark times.
The Gospel for yesterday's Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Third Sunday of Lent, was about the driving out of a demon from a mute man. In this passage, some very important teaching is given to us about the nature of evil, the power of Christ over evil spirits, and the necessity of believing that demons, do, in fact, exist.
Today so much materialism and secularism has made many people believe that what was formerly understood as demonic activity, is rather, psychological or psychiatric problems. While these are definitely an aspect of human life, and thanks be to God, we understand these illnesses to be just that, illness, which can be helped by medical intervention; still, the fact remains that evil is very much alive and active in the lives of so many. This is a spiritual reality that has many ramifications into the psychological, mental, emotional and physical realm.
The Church teaches that evil is not merely human; there are spiritual beings, fallen angels, if you will, that are active and attempt to draw men and women into the web of evil, which separates them from God and leads to destruction, beginning in this life and if not repented, into the next.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "[t]he revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace.We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror"(385). The devil and the evil spirits want nothing more than for us to be frightened of their power or even to think they are stronger than God. We must have a true "fear", in the sense that we avoid evil and any kind of relationship with the evil spirits (the occult, Ouija boards, seances, etc.). But the real fear is the "fear of the Lord"; a true respect for God, an abhorrence of offending Him, acknowledgment of His power which exceeds anything the devil or the evil spirits have. They make a lot of noise; they try to influence, manipulate and scare us. But they are created spirits. Their power is limited and is really only as much as we allow them to have over us.
When Jesus is accused of driving out demons by the "power of Beelzebub", He answers back that if is by the 'finger of God' (an important image here) that He drives out demons, "the kingdom of God is already here among you." The 'finger of God' refers to the "tablets of stone 'by the finger of God' (i.e., the Ten Commandments) so "then the 'letter from Christ' entrusted to the care of the apostles, is written 'with the Spirits of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on the tablets of human hearts'(2 Cor 3:3). The hymn Veni Creator Spiritus invokes the Holy Spirit as the 'finger of the Father's right hand'"(CCC 700). Jesus' Divine authority is ever-greater than any evil, any sin. He is the Lord of all!
During these weeks before the great celebration of the Lord's Suffering, Death and Resurrection, a good confession is in order so that we may avail ourselves to the graces of this blessed season, as well as an "exorcistic" release from the bonds of evil and sin. It is through the Sacraments, most especially the absolution of a priest in confession, that Jesus looses the bonds of evil. In fact, a famous exorcist has written that absolution in the Sacrament of Penance is even more powerful that the Rite of Exorcism; it is the power of Christ Jesus..."I absolve you from your sins"...it is not the priest speaking on his own; it is Jesus speaking through the mediation of the priest, just as he spoke to mute man and released him from his bondage.
What a wonderful grace to know that Jesus frees us from evil by His Word and Sacraments. Don't miss out on the encounter with Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance during these days of repentance and conversion!