Sunday, March 28, 2010
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.