Easter Sunday: a reflection

“Resurrection” by Piero della Francesca

(Resurrection by Piero della Francesca)

Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And this will be the last of my Holy Week/Easter reflections, so for those of you who may have been annoyed by them, that’s one more reason to rejoice!

At the Easter Vigil last night I thought back over the accounts of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his passion and his resurrection. I thought about the different people I identified with: the crowds whose shouts of “hosanna” soon turn to cries of “crucify him”, the spineless Pilate who has an innocent man beaten and crucified out of fear of those above and below him, the despairing traitor Judas, the repentant denier Peter, the awed solider who proclaims “surely, this was the Son of God, the hopeless disciples hiding behind locked doors while the Lord is in the tomb and the joyful women who hear the angel say “he is not here for his is risen.”

Placing myself in those scenes, I identify with all of the above. I realized, however, that it’s not any of those people that the Scriptures invite us to walk the road of Holy Week with. We, by grace, are invited to walk this path with Christ himself.

Those of us who are Christians know, as Christ did, that when he enters Jerusalem he is headed for a cross not an earthly throne. With Christ we know which diners at the table in the upper room will deny and betray him. We know the contents of the cup he is about to drink as he enters the garden to pray. We know that he will not receive justice from his own people or from Pilate. We know as he cries “it is finished” that this is not the end. We know what those who come to the tomb on Easter morning will find.

This is what it means to be a Christan: to be made an heir with Christ and to be adopted as sons and daughters of God receiving by grace what Christ has by nature. The first Adam fell into a grave and took us with him, but the second Adam descended into that grave and rose again, bringing us out.

Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Palm Sunday of our Lord’s Passion: a reflection

Behold the Man

As much as I love hearing the Gospel readings proclaimed in the liturgy, sometimes they are hard to hear. Usually this is because something Our Lord says cuts to the heart of my own self-righteousness and pride. The Passion narrative read today, however, is the hardest reading for me all year. And not just because of what I hear, but for what I and the rest of the congregation say:

“He deserves to die!”

“Prophesy for us, Christ: who is it that struck you?”

“Let him be crucified!”

And as I say these things, I’m wishing that this was the only time I said them…wishing I hadn’t said them with my life and sins many times over.

But, miracles of miracles, after this I am given the grace to stand and confess my faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and in the Church, the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection. I am invited to call God Father and pray as Jesus taught us. Christ, the betrayed, abused and crucified Lord, does not turn me away, but gives me his peace. He gives Himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and dwells with one who is not worthy to receive him.

These gifts make the Passion narrative bearable in the same way Easter Sunday makes Good Friday good.

“Truly, this was the Son of God!”

Lent: It’s not about us…

Self-realization is a contradiction and it is too little for us. We have a higher destiny…

The Cross is the definitive revelation of love and divine mercy. To enter into this mystery of love there is no other way than that of losing ourselves, giving ourselves: the Way of the Cross.

Pope Benedict XVI, public audience today, Ash Wednesday of 2007

Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

Christ is Born!

…the whole body of the faithful confess that they believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. By which three statements the devices of almost all heretics are overthrown. For not only is God believed to be both Almighty and the Father, but the Son is shown to be co-eternal with Him, differing in nothing from the Father because He is God from God, Almighty from Almighty, and being born from the Eternal one is co-eternal with Him; not later in point of time, not lower in power, not unlike in glory, not divided in essence: but at the same time the only begotten of the eternal Father was born eternal of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. And this nativity which took place in time took nothing from, and added nothing to that divine and eternal birth, but expended itself wholly on the restoration of man who had been deceived: in order that he might both vanquish death and overthrow by his strength, the Devil who possessed the power of death. For we should not now be able to overcome the author of sin and death unless He took our nature on Him and made it His own, whom neither sin could pollute nor death retain. Doubtless then, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit within the womb of His Virgin Mother, who brought Him forth without the loss of her virginity, even as she conceived Him without its loss.

(Pope St. Leo the Great, Letter 28 (aka “The Tome of Leo“)

Community and Togetherness…Separation and Grief

I ran across the conversion story of William J. Cork, a former Lutheran Pastor (with a Seventh Day Adventist background) tonight and found a couple passages I wanted to share.

As I would articulate it in years to come, having been raised in a legalistic and sectarian environment, I had two critical issues: the Gospel and the church. I liked what Ford and Brinsmead [controversalists within the SDA–J] were saying about the Gospel’s message of unconditional forgiveness, but I didn’t think forming a splinter movement of a splinter movement was the answer. My study of the church’s history opened to me the continuity of the faith of the ages; experiences with other Christians led me to seek out new and wider forms of fellowship. The Gospel, I came to believe, must create a community of faith in continuity with the preaching of the Apostles. It must draw us toward other believers, not away from them. [emphasis mine–J]

Even though Mr. Cork eventually left the SDA denomination and became a Lutheran chaplin and pastor before finally entering the Catholic Church, his wife remains an Adventist.

Joy found herself pulled between me and her parents; my own father had joined the Adventist church not long before. In such emotionally charged surroundings, Joy was not about to even consider leaving; when her brother formally left, it was a second blow to her family. She has remained an Adventist to this day. Our marriage could have been shattered at that time had it not been for one of my professors, to whom I went for counseling. He helped me see that one who undergoes a conversion experience goes through the same sort of grief process as one who is watching a loved one die — and the convert’s family and friends go through a parallel process. There will be anger, and denial, and depression, he warned. And so there was. [emphasis mine, again–J]

I enjoyed the rest of his story as well. Looks like he’s also done a fair bit of other writing about the Faith on his site. I don’t why I haven’t heard of him before now, unless I have and forgotten.

One of those “Reasons for the Season” type posts

I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ; he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.

I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people—and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers.

And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son.

Hence I cannot be silent—nor, indeed, is it expedient—about the great benefits and the great grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this we can give to God in return after having been chastened by Him, to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under the heaven.

Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His Son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by him are made all things visible and invisible.

He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, under the earth. Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be. He is judge of the living and of the dead, who will render every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality. Who makes those who believe and obey, sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name.

–St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland

I read the rest, and I didn’t find anything about green beer or corned beef.

Seriously, though, I think celebrating our older brothers and sisters in the faith who have, by God’s grace, been rewarded with their place around the throne is wonderful (we don’t call them Feast Days for nothing), but it saddens me when the memory of a Saint of such seeming humility and courage gets swallowed up by revelry, drunkeness and ethnic pride.

The irony here is that St. Patrick came to save a land from paganism and now his feast day is full of its hallmarks.

St. Patrick, pray for us…green beer and all.

“What am I to do with this Sacrament?”

I was listening to Michael Barber‘s “Reasons for Faith” on EWTN radio today, and he read an entry from “Swept Over”, the blog of Scott Lyons, a Protestant who sounds like a “doomed” man to me. Read this excerpt and be the judge:

Let me share with you the true riches of the Catholic Church. It is not found in her history, and it is not in her unity or charity (or even her hats). I do not find it in her strong moral stand within our culture or in her unrelenting grasp of right. It is not that she has given us the Scriptures or that she is, after two millennia, thoroughly orthodox. Don’t misread me – there are riches here. But her true riches are, unquestioningly for me, in her Mass.

Many of the riches in the Catholic Church I can explore as a Protestant. In many cases, I can even make them my own. But the Mass is wholly different, wholly other. It has its liturgies (the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist) that must be performed. And though the priest plays an essential role in the Mass, it is not about the priest. Or the music. Or the homily (sermonette). The Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist. And the Eucharist – and here lies the scandalon, the stumbling stone – is Christ.

…The Eucharist, therefore, celebrated as such, is either the greatest good or it is foul evil. I don’t know that there is a middle way.

And therein is my great struggle with Catholicism. It is the most profound and life-changing news I have ever received as a believer – that I can touch and experience and feast upon our Lord. And it is the most terrifying.

What am I to do with this Sacrament?

How many of you converts does this sound familar to? Perhaps from the days when it began to echo inside your own skull?

You can read the rest here. It’s worth a look.

I’ll definately keep an eye on Scott’s blog and pray he’ll know what do to with the Sacrament when the time comes.

New Podcast: “The Didache”

The chatters in our “Catholics Building Bridges” room on Pal-Talk discuss “The Didache“, possibly the oldest extant Christian document outside of the New Testament. This is the first in a series of Podcasts related to our “Church Fathers Lenten Reading Plan.”

Episode 4 (3-1-06): Lenten Discussion: the Didache (18.5 Mb, 46:25)

(Feel free to check our other episodes and subscribe to our feed on The Ancient and Future Podcast page.)