A delayed (on account of the Easter Octave), but nonetheless blessed Saint George’s Day! A solemnity here in England, St George is also held in high honour in Canada. The Cross of St George was raised by John Cabot in Newfoundland in 1497, during the reign of Henry VII, thus earning its contemporary residents (and those in Labrador also) a provincial holiday! Today St George’s Cross features on four provincial flags, as well as within the Royal Union Flag. So in tribute to my former home of Alberta, here’s a poem in honour of the saint and his English settlers in the True North.
St George that savest England,
Save us who still must go
Where leads thy cross of scarlet
Upon its field of snow.
Beyond the life of cities,
Distractions and dismays,
Where mountain shadows measure
The passing of the days.
Among the lonely snow-peaks
Where golden morning shines,
Stands thy undaunted outpost
Among the lodge-pole pines–
A little stone-built chapel
As modest as can be,
Touched with a loving glory,
To house thy God and thee.
Here, where majestic beauty
And inspiration bide,
Be thou, to make us worthy,
Our counsellor and guide.
Be with us, Soul of England,
Where the last trail puts forth,
To keep unsoiled forever
The honour of the North.
St George’s in the Pines
Bliss Carman FRSC, 1861-1929
‘O eternal Trinity, eternal godhead! This godhead, your divine nature, made immensely precious the blood of the only-begotten Son. Eternal Trinity, you are like a deep sea, in which the more I see, the more I find; and the more I find, the more I seek you. You fill the soul, yet somehow without satisfying it: In the abyss which you are you so fill the soul that it ever continues to hunger and thirst for you, desiring you, eager in your light to see you, who are the light.
With the light of my understanding, in your light I have tasted and seen the abyss which you are, eternal Trinity, and the beauty of your creation. Then looking at myself in you, I have seen that I am your image; this is a gift that I receive from you in your power, eternal Father, and in your wisdom, which is attributed to your only-begotten Son. The Holy Spirit who proceeds from you, Father, and from your Son has prepared me, giving me a will to love you.
Eternal Trinity, you are the Creator, I the creature. I have come to know, in the new creation you made of me in the blood of your Son, that you are in love with the beauty of your creature’.
from her Dialogue by St Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380
O merciful God, who gavest to thy servant Saint Catherine of Siena a wondrous love of the Passion of Christ: grant that, through her prayers; we thy people may be united to him in his majesty and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
John Updike, 1932-2009
Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Low Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘When Easter comes, the Church delights to remind herself of that newness which is in the risen Christ. On Holy Saturday morning, a new spark must be struck from the flint, to light a new set of candles and lamps; new holy water must be blessed, and a new font; fresh cloths are spread on the altars, and the tabernacle itself, on Easter morning, is full of freshly consecrated Hosts. We are beginning all over again, making all things new. And we have a right to do so, for in the order of grace there is perpetual novelty. In the order of nature there is perpetual affectation of novelty, which never comes to anything; there is nothing new, the wise man reminds us, under the sun, however much, at the moment, things look different. Whereas in the order of grace there is no change apparent, but in truth it is a perpetual spring, inexhaustible in its fecundity.
…[I]n the life of grace, ah, if we could only see it, there is a perpetual burgeoning of new life, nor merely from one Easter to another, from one retreat to another, but with every worthy reception of the sacraments. Perpetual spring, perpetual renovation of our natures, if we could only catch the hour of grace, utilise it, make it our own. Whatever you are, and at whatever time of life you are, that possibility of spiritual renewal is with you no less surely than if you were a boy at school again, or just leaving school to make your way in life. Christ is risen; those tidings can never lose their force with age, nor be staled by repetition; Christ is risen, and life, for the Christian, is always new’.
from an Easter meditation, 1939, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
We thank thee, heavenly Father, for that thou hast delivered as from the dominion of sin and death and hast brought us unto the kingdom of thy Son: and we pray thee that, as by his death he hath recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to joys eternal; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saturday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Conquering death by death. It is here that we must start in thinking about Christ as Lord. As St John saw in his vision, Jesus holds the keys of hell because he has died and yet is alive. And in the gospels it is the risen Christ who says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”. The earliest Christians thought of the resurrection as the event in which God invested Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, with authority, brought him to sit on his right hand in heaven to share his, God’s, kingship. Why? First and foremost, because Jesus raised from the dead “dies no more”, as Paul says. The reason Jesus is set free from all the constraints and limits which keep men and women at a distance from God and from each other - from the principalities and powers of the new Testament. The resurrection is not a resuscitation; it is the gift of the new kind of life, the life that exists on the far side of death and hell, of destruction and disintegration. He will not die again, “death has no more dominion over him”. He is no longer the prisoner of the past; he is not an historical memory, whose life is neatly tied up and put away. No, from now on he belongs to all people and all times, he is available to all. He is free’.
Rowan Williams, Lord Williams of Oystermouth (Archbishop of Canterbury, 2002-2012)
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal Mystery hast established the new covenant reconciliation: grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Thursday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did beginne
And still with sicknesses and shame.
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
‘Man, nature and history have their solution not within themselves but within a divine kingdom that transcends them. This divine kingdom cannot be realised as a climax of human progress upon the plane of history, nor yet as a movement of mankind to an immortality that belongs to it by right. It will be realised by God’s act in “raising up” mankind and delivering it from the contradictions which neither history nor immortality can solve. Yet this divine kingdom will not be far removed from nature and history; for in it both nature and history will be “clothed upon” and fulfilled.
“Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat caelestia”.
It is thus in the Resurrection of the dead that the goal of the individual and the goal of the redeemed society find their perfect coincidence. The individual cannot reach his goal except in union with those who shall share with Him in the love of God and in the Body of Christ. The traditional picture of a final Resurrection and of spirits waiting (though in a conscious and growing activity) for their bodies at the last day, tells of the truth that the perfecting of the individual is reached only in the perfecting of all. Thus the thought of my resurrection is inseparable from the thought of the resurrection of all the members of Christ’.
from The Resurrection of Christ, 1945
by A.M. Ramsey, 1904-1988 (Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-1974)
O God, who dost gladden us with the yearly solemnity of the Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord: mercifully grant that we may so observe this temporal feast; that we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There is a wonderful economy about the grace of God, and though he never fails us, yet he combines his gift of grace with a complete respect for our own freedom and responsibility.
That means that we must expect to find the proof of the powers of his grace not in easy effortless victories because all our difficulties and temptations melt away, but in strength for the conflict. What is asked of us is not the limp surrender of ourselves to some blind force which will work in us without our knowledge or consent, but the active vigorous response of our whole being to the grace that is given us.
We shan’t drift into living the new life of the man who has been buried and raised again with Christ. God’s grace isn’t given to us to save us trouble or to enable us to do without effort what in fact requires all the effort which our wills can muster; but it does ensure that his power is always available for us, and we can always rely on it.
But remember that if we’re to share his triumph, we must also share the method by which it was achieved. We are committed to the victory of the Cross. And that means not only that we must follow the example of his patience before we can be partakers of his resurrection, but also that God’s power is a power which is only made perfect in weakness and therefore it always involves for us, as it did for the apostles, a real trial of our faith. We can’t separate Easter from all that has gone before. The continuation of Christ’s victory in us means the continuation of Christ’s struggle in us. But never fear. “God giveth us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ”. We are actors in the Easter drama, and the crucified risen Lord still continues his Easter triumph in countless human souls. For “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”’.
from The Easter Drama, 1958, by Hugh Bishop
(Superior of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, 1965-1974)
O God, who by the glorious Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Tuesday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.
Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine--
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ’tis Easter morn?
Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.
Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.
Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls always
Make each morn an Easter Day.
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844-1889
‘And so I saw full surely that before ever God made us, he loved us. And this love was never quenched nor ever shall be. And in this love he has done all his works, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us, and in this love our life is everlasting. In our making we had beginning, but the love in which he made us was in him from without beginning, in which love we have our beginning’.
Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416
Almighty God, who through thine Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: we humbly beseech thee; that as by thy special grace thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Easter Day, Divine Worship: The Missal.
The following ‘Ancient Homily on the Lord’s Descent into Hell’ is found in the order for ‘A Liturgy of the Word for Holy Saturday’ as found in the Ordinariate’s Divine Worship: The Missal. It is attributed to Bishop Melito of Sardis, who died c.180.
‘Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.
“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
“For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
“See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
“I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity”’.
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: grant that, as the crucified body of thy dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - A collect for Holy Saturday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Good Friday is explained by Holy Thursday, the hour of darkness by the hour of the Son of Man. Nevertheless there remains this disconcerting fact that the prince of darkness has had his hour; his pride perished with his conquest, and yet the Son of Man had to be delivered to him. It is the “scandal of the cross”, “the folly of the cross”, as St Paul does not hesitate to say: a scandal and a folly in which the generosity of God’s love, revealed at the Last Supper, appears to have no limit except that of having none. If this truth, once penetrated, becomes eminently comforting, it is at this the most disturbing of mysteries: nothing else than the “problem of evil” sounded to the depth, and not thereby solved.
…Christ’s sorrow is first the sorrow of God, touched to the quick by that hostility His people, without even realising it, generated in sinning against Him. Will not this enmity reject His love the instant that He comes in person to repair for sinners the wrong they have done to Him? The sorrow of Christ is at the same time the sorrow of man, becoming conscious of the impassable abyss that sin has hollowed between him and his God. Having come as far as he can on the bloody way back to God, he is only made aware of his infinite remoteness from the One whom he was attempting to reach. This sorrow of man in Jesus Christ is still, however, the sorrow God, since in Him God made Himself man; so that his double sorrow appears, in the last analysis, as one single agony of the Man-God. In His divine incarnate Person, the unifying plenitude of divine love assumes the pain of separation which sin had imposed upon man. In the horrific torture of the cross to which the Saviour chose to submit, we can see an image of that division that the Man-God felt as none of us would be capable of feeling, between His divinity and the humanity which that divinity had accepted; between God’s love and man’s sin. Who will ever describe this interior cross of the God made man, who feels Himself, as God, abandoned by men, and, as man, abandoned by God?’
from The Paschal Mystery: Meditations on the Last Three Days of Holy Week
by Fr Louis Bouyer, Cong. Orat., 1913-2004
‘The celebration of… Holy Thursday renews for us the hour of Christ, the hour when, by the sign of the Eucharist, He declared Himself the Champion of humanity in the combat against Satan. But the Holy Thursday observance renews that hour not only as any commemoration might revive a memory: it actually reproduces that hour so that we may all have part in it. In anticipating His Passion in this sign, Christ gave at the same time the sacrament that was to re-enact the Passion for His followers and, by this sacrament, gave the entire Christian sacramental system. All the other sacraments are in germ in the Eucharist since it embodies the Saviour’s Passion and they are only complementary aspects of the victory He won for us. On Holy Thursday, too, the blessing of the oils establishes a link between the primordial Mass and the important sacraments of baptism, confirmation, holy orders, and extreme unction. Speaking more generally, all the Christian liturgy is a perpetual renewal of the mystery of Christ, suffering, dying, and rising again to deprive the demon of his power over men and to reconcile them with His Father’.
from The Paschal Mystery: Meditations on the Last Three Days of Holy Week
by Fr Louis Bouyer, Cong. Orat., 1913-2004
‘The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people are met today, in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers who have received a favourable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days back? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in his defence? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over before apprehending Jesus.
But these bloodthirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees, – which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world’s salvation, - have fixed this very year’s Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, tomorrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus’ Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one.
But how are Jesus’ enemies to get possession of their divine Victim, so as to avoid a disturbance in the City? There is only one plan that could succeed, and they have not thought of it: it is treachery. Just at the close of their deliberations they are told that one of Jesus’ Disciples seeks admission. They admit him, and he says to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? They are delighted at this proposition: and yet how is it, that they, doctors of the law, forget that this infamous bargain between themselves and Judas has all been foretold by David in the 108th Psalm? They know the Scriptures from beginning to end; - how comes it, that they forget the words of the Prophet, who even mentions the sum of thirty pieces of silver. Judas asks them what they will give him; and they give him thirty pieces of silver! All is arranged: tomorrow Jesus will be in Jerusalem eating the Pasch with his Disciples. In the evening he will go, as usual, to the Garden on Mount Olivet. But how shall they, who are sent to seize him, be able to distinguish him from his Disciples? Judas will lead the way; he will show them which is Jesus, by going up to him and kissing him!
Such is the impious scheme devised on this day, within the precincts of the Temple of Jerusalem’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who didst will that thy Son should suffer death upon the Cross that thou mightest deliver us from the snares of the enemy: grant that by the merits of his Passion and Death we may know the power of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Spy Wednesday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Church has prepared us step by step for this sacred experience [of Holy Week]. A steady crescendo in the liturgy has been taking place since Septuagesima Sunday. Each week the sound rose higher, and louder. Although Mother Church often spoke about the Cross and the resurrection, she did so in veiled signs and figures, as if she feared exposing a most precious object to profane eyes. Not until this moment does she remove the curtain. Now we see the Holy of Holies; and more than that, we are asked to participate in the most sublime drama of religious history.
…We should not call it a week of mourning, for Cross and resurrection are inseparable. Christ’s redemptive work did not end with death, it continues on in the victory of His resurrection. Therefore, we must not separate the passion from the resurrection, but rather regard the Cross as the way to Easter victory.
The liturgy does not make this week one of sorrowful lamentation or tearful sympathising with our suffering Lord. That was the medieval approach. No, through the whole week there runs a note of victory and joy, a realisation that Christ’s sacred passion was a prerequisite to Easter glory. We cannot understand the Church’s liturgy unless we keep this in mind’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O Lord God, whose blessed Son, our Saviour, gave his back to the smiters and hid not his face from shame: grant us grace to take joyfully the suffering of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The passion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ gives us the confidence of glory and a lesson in the endurance of suffering.
Is there anything which the hearts of the faithful may not promise themselves from the grace of God? It was not enough that the only Son of God, co-eternal with the Father, should be born as man from man for them – he even died for them at the hands of men, whom he had created.
What God promises us for the future is great, but what we recall as already done for us is much greater. When Christ died for the wicked, where were they or what were they? Who can doubt that he will give the saints his life, since he has already given them his death? Why is human weakness slow to believe that men will one day live with God?
A much more incredible thing has already happened: God died for men… he carried out a wonderful transaction with us through our mutual sharing: he died from what was ours, we will live from what is his.
So far from being ashamed at the death of the Lord our God, we must have the fullest trust in it; it must be our greatest boast, for by assuming from us death, which he found in us, he pledged most faithfully to give us life in himself, which we could not have our ourselves’.
from a sermon by St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Monday in Holy Week, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘They had always wanted to make Him a king. Right up to the end His immediate disciples always had this idea very prominent in their thoughts. Even on the Mount of the Ascension they were to ask Him that question which seems to us so unbelievably stupid: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Still harping on their idea of an earthly kingdom greater than Solomon’s!
Well, today they should have their will. The time had come for the fulfilling of the remaining prophecies about Him.
So He rode forward on the ass, and they hailed Him as king… With Him goes a great crowd from outside Jerusalem, mostly Galileans come up for the Feast, at least half-convinced that He is the Messiah, ready to go all the way with Him if He will give them a lead, the more so that He is a Galilean, and they will show these Judean Jews that Galilee can do something worth while after all. And as they go on towards Jerusalem they will be joined by many who heard that He had arrived at Bethany, and were on their way out to see Him who had not been seen since He raised Lazarus.
…We keep Palm Sunday. We sing our hymn: “All glory, laud, and honour to Thee, Redeemer, King”. It is a royal procession we take part in. He is our King. Even knowing about Good Friday and what He will be like then, scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed up there – as Cardinal Newman said once – like a noxious bird on a barn door, He is our King. His Kingdom is not of this world. But then men are not of this world either – mid-way between animal and angel is man – and it is in men’s hearts and wills that His Kingdom lies. He will convert men, and they will reconstruct society. And He will conquer by love, or He will not conquer at all. Earthly kings are not crowned with thorns, and scourged, and robed in blood, or, if they are, they do not turn the world upside down.
…We take our part in the procession.
Some go before and make ready the way – getting branches of trees and strewing them in the way – spreading garments in the way. So some of you give personal service, and make personal sacrifices. You long by any means in your power to do honour to Him. Some follow after, attracted by the crowd, and worked up by their enthusiasm – attracted by music, or by a popular preacher, or by striking ceremonial, or by the influence of a personal friend. And there are His nearest disciples, around Him wherever He goes, whether they understand or not. Even they will fail Him later in the week. Will you?’
from an address on Palm Sunday 1933 by Dom Bernard Clements OSB, 1880-1942
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us. O Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy upon us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy upon us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy upon us.
Jesus, the Eternal Widsom, have mercy upon us.
The Word made flesh, have mercy upon us.
Hated by the world, have mercy upon us.
Sold for thirty pieces of silver, have mercy upon us.
Sweating blood in Thy agony, have mercy upon us.
Betrayed by Judas, have mercy upon us.
Forsaken by Thy disciples, have mercy upon us.
Struck upon the cheek, have mercy upon us.
Accused by false witnesses, have mercy upon us.
Spit upon in the face, have mercy upon us.
Denied by Peter, have mercy upon us.
Mocked by Herod, have mercy upon us.
Scourged by Pilate, have mercy upon us.
Rejected for Barabbas, have mercy upon us.
Loaded with the cross, have mercy upon us.
Crowned with thorns, have mercy upon us.
Stripped of Thy garments, have mercy upon us.
Nailed to the tree, have mercy upon us.
Reviled by the Jews, have mercy upon us.
Scoffed at by the malefactor, have mercy upon us.
Wounded in the side, have mercy upon us.
Shedding Thy last drop of blood, have mercy upon us.
Forsaken by Thy Father, have mercy upon us.
Dying for our sins, have mercy upon us.
Taken down from the cross, have mercy upon us.
Laid in the sepulchre, have mercy upon us.
Rising gloriously, have mercy upon us.
Ascending into Heaven, have mercy upon us.
Sending down the Paraclete, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Sacrifice, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Mediator, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Judge, have mercy upon us.
Be merciful. Spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful. Graciously hear us, O Lord.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee,
Because through Thy Holy Cross Thou didst redeem the world.
Let us pray. O God, who for the redemption of the world wast pleased to be born; to be circumcised; to be rejected; to be betrayed; to be bound with thongs; to be led to the slaughter; to be shamefully gazed at; to be falsely accused; to be scourged and torn; to be spit upon, and crowned with thorns; to be mocked and reviled; to be buffeted and struck with rods; to be stripped; to be nailed to the cross; to be hoisted up thereon; to be reckoned among thieves; to have gall and vinegar to drink; to be pierced with a lance: through Thy most holy passion, which we, Thy sinful servants, call to mind, and by Thy holy cross and gracious death, deliver us from the pains of hell, and lead us whither Thou didst lead the thief who was crucified with Thee, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, God, world without end. Amen.
from his Litany of the Passion by Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
In both the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, one week exactly before Good Friday, Our Lady of Sorrows is today commemorated. In the Ordinariate it is known as ‘Saint Mary in Passiontide’, a day to recall the sufferings of Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross of her Son.
‘With Mary, God has worked for good in everything, and he does not cease, through Mary, to cause good to spread further in the world.
Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother. At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveller and protector on life’s journey. “By her motherly love she cares for her son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home”, as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (Lumen Gentium, 62). Yes indeed, in life we pass through high-points and low-points, but Mary intercedes for us with her Son and helps us to discover the power of his divine love, and to open ourselves to that love.
Our trust in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God and our gratitude for the help we have repeatedly experienced impel us, as it were, to think beyond the needs of the moment. What does Mary actually want to say to us, when she rescues us from some trial? She wants to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation. With a mother’s tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy. “Understand”, she seems to say to us, “that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields wholly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise”. Where God is, there is a future.
Indeed — when we allow God’s love to pervade and to shape the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open. Then it is possible so to shape the present that it corresponds more and more to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the little things of everyday life acquire meaning, and great problems find solutions.
Confident of this, we pray to Mary; confident of this, we put our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. Amen’.
Pope Benedict XVI
‘How pleasing and dear to God is that soul, and how fruitful will his meditations be, in which he inwardly suffers the pains of Jesus’ passion, is wounded to the heart by His wounds, and by reflecting on his death experiences a love-death with Him.
…Most gracious Lord Jesus, I ask thee, who in thy vast love deigned to pray for thine enemies, to pray with that same love for me to the Father that He grant me full pardon for all my sins and mercifully free me from the punishment I deserve for them. Grant me a firm and abiding trust in thy love, that I yield not to despair because of the greatness of my sins, rather that I remember that thou hast come into this world to save sinners and that it was thy will to suffer, to be crucified, and to die for the sinful.
…Lord, let my soul rejoice in thee and find joy in thy salvation, as I reflect on thy most consoling words, your second utterance from the Cross, “Amen I say unto thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise”. May these words, more tender because they came from thee as thou hung upon thy Cross, be often on my lips and still more often in my heart. Words addressed to me from the lips of my crucified Lord are most endearing and eloquent, and for this reason they merit more serious attention and profound reflection.
…Let meditating on Jesus Christ and Him crucified be your daily prayer. Keep Jesus always before your eyes and keep ever near the foot of His Cross. Whether in life or death, enter the tomb with Jesus so that when Christ, who is your life, shall appear again, you will rise with Him in glory. Amen’.
from On the Passion of Christ According to the Four Evangelists by Thomas à Kempis, c.1380-1471
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw one hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near his cross I stood.
Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with his death,
Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins his blood had spilt,
And helped to nail him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did:
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look he gave, which said,
‘I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live’.
Thus while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.
John Newton, 1725-1807
‘There could be only one thing perfectly worthy of being offered to perfect Love, and that would be something that embodied perfect love perfectly in our human nature, if human nature is to offer it. The divine Person of the Son of God in perfect love assumed a human nature. His love achieved this triumph, that He turned the climax of hate into the climax of love, making a masterpiece of spiritual beauty out of His murder by men. After his Ascension the Holy Spirit came, and one of His ceaseless energies is to make effective in the Eucharistic rite the very presence and reality of the perfect Sacrifice once offered on Mount Calvary, uniting the Eucharist celebrated this morning with that past of Calvary and with the everlasting present of the heavenly worship. Here are we, with the power to offer God the perfect Sacrifice; that which we offer is one in reality of love and identity of intention with the Sacrifice on Mount Calvary; and it is also one with the heavenly worship wherein the angels and archangels join with us as we join with them. So it is the perfect offering of perfect love to the all-perfect God Whom we worship, Who is Love, that we human beings are able to offer. What makes the Catholic Church altogether different from, and superior to, every other body is this: that we are able to offer and present unto God not only our selves, our souls and bodies, but the self, the soul, and the body of the perfect Man, tested to the uttermost, proved to the uttermost, triumphant in the uttermost - the perfect, everlasting Sacrifice’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Christ, my Lord, which for my sins didst hang upon a tree,
grant that thy grace in me, poor wretch, may still ingrafted be.
Grant that thy naked hanging there may kill in me all pride
and care of wealth, sith thou didst then in such poor state abide.
Grant that thy crown of pricking thorns, which thou for me didst wear,
may make me willing for thy sake all shame and pain to bear.
Grant that those scorns and taunts which thou didst on the cross endure
may humble me and in my heart all patience still procure.
Grant that thy praying for thy foes may plant within my breast
such charity as from my heart I malice may detest.
Grant that thy pierced hands, which did of nothing all things frame,
may move me to lift up my hand and ever praise thy name.
Grant that thy wounded feet, whose steps were perfect evermore,
may learn my feet to tread those paths which thou hast gone before.
Grant that those drops of blood which ran out from thy heart amain
may meek my heart into salt tears to see thy grievous pain.
Grant that thy blessed grave, wherein thy body lay awhile,
may bury all such vain delights as may my mind defile.
Grant that thy going down to them which did thy sight desire
may keep my soul, when I am dead, clean from the purging fire.
Grant that thy rising up from death may raise my thoughts from sin;
grant that thy parting from this earth from earth my heart may win.
Grant, Lord, that they ascending then may lift my mind to thee
that there my heart and joy may rest, though here in flesh I be. Amen.
St Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel, 1557-1595
‘The body we receive in this sacrament is a body that died, and having died was buried. The body was done to death and laid in a tomb, to wait for a divine miracle. Christ lies in his sepulchre the image of Christian hope; nothing lies there but the bare hope of resurrection. Hope stretches between sacrifice and life renewed. Vision can often see no further than the sacrifice which God’s commandments impose; it cannot descry the enrichment of life which God’s grace intends. Hope holds the gap. “Must I rule the appetite of sex within the law of Christ, must I persevere in practices of prayer which are dry and seemingly infertile? It is death to my spirits. What life will ever come of it for the Christian people or for me?” If this is death, I ought to embrace it for Christ’s sake, and be willing not only to die, but to lie dead in sure and certain hope. Where the burial of Christ is, there the resurrection of Christ will be”’.
from The Crown of the Year: Weekly Paragraphs for the Holy Sacrament, 1952
by Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people: that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and in soul; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Passion Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
Fr Lee Kenyon