Saturday, April 2, 2022

Dominica I Passionis: "Jesus hid Himself"

Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to John

At that time, Jesus said to the crowds of the Jews: "Which of you can convict Me of sin? If I speak the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear is that you are not of God."

    The Jews therefore in answer said to Him, "Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan, and have a devil?"

    Jesus answered, "I have not a devil, but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. Yet, I do not seek y own glory; there is One Who seeks and Who judges. Amen, amen, I say to you, if anyone keep My word, he will never see death."

    The Jews therefore said, Now we know that You have a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets, and You say, ‘If anyone keep My word he will never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself?

    Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father Who glorifies Me, of Whom you say that He is your God. And you do not know Him, but I know Him. And if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be like you, a liar. But I know Him, and I keep His word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he was to see My day. He saw it and was glad."

    The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"

    Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am." They therefore took up stones to cast at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out from the temple.    - John 8:46-59.

The Veiled Cross

"With Passion Sunday the Church begins to place greater stress upon the account of Christ's redemptive death. She seeks to fill our minds with thoughts of His sacred passion. I use the words "greater stress" for the memory of our savior‘s death is actually the main object of Christian worship. Does not St. Paul say, "As often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until He comes again." The holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then, is the solemn proclamation of Christ holy death. As often as we gather for Mass, then, it is to voice our conviction: Christ died for us, the blood of His sacrifice flows even today for our souls, and the flesh of His Sacrifice is this very day our nourishment unto divine life.

I use the words "greater stress" for throughout the whole of Lent the theme of suffering is present, though in a much different manner than that proposed by current piety. It is the battle of Christ with hell, His wrestling with the devil for the souls given him by the Father. That is one of the major veins of thought which run through the entire season.

Recall again Lent's three main phases. The first Sunday -- Christ and the devil;  Christ on the defensive. The third Sunday --  the strong man and the stronger One; Christ on the offensive. Palm Sunday -- Christ victor and king in His sacrificial death. Remember, too, that this battle was not finished 2000 years ago, it continues till the end of time. This Christ, struggling, battling, winning is the mystic Christ in His Body, the Church, and then His members, individual Christians. So, Lent is a "holy crusade" in which we are active participants, not merely pious observers.

This day marks the beginning of Passiontide, a time in which we are to meditate more intensely on Christ's suffering. It is the time of which Christ says: "When the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then they will fast" (Matt 9,15) What, more specifically, constitutes this commemoration of Christ's sacred passion?

Here I must again remind my readers of the profound difference between the ancient Christian approach and the modern. How does popular piety present Christ's suffering? It proceeds to review Holy Week historically; it pictures with great fidelity the various scenes of the "bitter passion," it dissects all the feelings and thoughts of our suffering Savior, it evokes bitter tears of compassion; it analyzes the virtues displayed by the Lord at every phase of his suffering. Hopw shall imitate Him ... what can I learn from Him? are its most important questions. Finally, it makes suffering the remote for moral amendment: "He died on the cross for me, and I have offended him so deeply."

Now what was the approach of ancient Christian piety is found in the liturgy? It follows an entirely different course. To be sure, it too put Christ's historical sufferings in the place of vantage, but it did not stop there. More important was the purpose and goal of Christ's passion, the historical context took a second place. By His suffering Christ redeemed us and made us children of God. These are they happy truths of Christianity.

Therefore, the liturgy did not see to elicit bitter tears, it could even rejoice. On what apparently is the most tragic day of the whole year, on good Friday, during the veneration of the Cross we are able to lift our voices in jubilant song: "See because of this wood, joy has come into the whole world!" Christians of an earlier age, therefore were not prone to speak of the bitter passion, but of the beata passio, the happy or blessed passion.

The liturgy does not focus attention upon the human side the passion as much as upon it's goal, our salvation. Ancient Christian art was not satisfied with depicting the sufferings of Christ but rather perceived in them the reality of redemption. Whereas since the Middle Ages Jesus has been commonly perceived at the scourging pillar, in His agony, or on the Cross writhing in deathly pain, the ancient Church exalted the Cross as the sign of victory and  redemption, the crux gemmata, the cross set with jewels and made with precious metal, without the figure the Crucified. These two types of crosses may will be regarded as symbols of the two approaches to Christ's sacred passion, the two major types of Christian piety. 

From:The Church's Year of Grace 

Crux gemmata Source: Wikipedia

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