Thursday, March 28, 2024

Holy Thursday: To Suffer at the Hands of the Wicked

“Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the sinner, * and out of the hand of the transgressor of the law and of the unjust.
For thou art my patience, O Lord: * my hope, O Lord, from my youth.” Psalm 70

Lesson from the book of Lamentations

Lam 1:1-5
1 Aleph. How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! how is the mistress of the Gentiles become as a widow: the princes of provinces made tributary!
2 Beth. Weeping she hath wept in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: there is none to comfort her among all them that were dear to her: all her friends have despised her, and are become her enemies.
3 Ghimel. Juda hath removed her dwelling place because of her affliction, and the greatness of her bondage: she hath dwelt among the nations, and she hath found no rest: all her persecutors have taken her in the midst of straits.
4 Daleth. The ways of Sion mourn, because there are none that come to the solemn feast: all her gates are broken down: her priests sigh: her virgins are in affliction, and she is oppressed with bitterness.
5 He. Her adversaries are become her lords, her enemies are enriched: because the Lord hath spoken against her for the multitude of her iniquities: her children are led into captivity: before the face of the oppressor.

From the Treatise of St. Augustine, Bishop (of Hippo) Upon the Psalms

On Psalm liv, 1
Give ear to my prayer, O God, and despise not my supplication: attend unto me and hear me. These are the words of a man travailing, anxious, and troubled. He prayeth in the midst of much suffering, longing to be rid of his affliction. Our part is to see what that his affliction was, and when he hath told us, to acknowledge that we also suffer therefrom; that so, partaking in his trouble, we may take part also in his exercise, and am troubled. Wherein mourned he? Wherein was he troubled? He saith: In my exercise. In the next words he giveth us to know that his affliction was the oppression of the wicked, because of the voice of the enemy, and because of the oppression of the wicked, and this suffering which came upon him at the hands of wicked men, he hath called his exercise. Think not that wicked men are in this world for nothing, or that God doth no good with them. Every wicked man liveth, either to repent, or to exercise the righteous.

O God, from Whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt, and the thief the reward of his confession: grant unto us the full fruit of Thy clemency; that even as in His Passion our Lord Jesus Christ gave to each retribution according to his merits, so having cleared away our former guilt, He may bestow on us the grace of His Resurrection.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

St John Chrysostom: Homily for Spy Wednesday

The Kiss of Judas, Giotto 

Holy Wednesday, historically referred to in the West as Spy Wednesday (“spy” meaning to ambush or ensnare), is the time where the Universal Church recalls Judas’s intention to betray his master, Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Liturgical Background

At the traditional Latin Mass, the Gospel of Luke 22:39-71 & 23:1-53 is appointed to be read. That account of Our Lord’s Passion includes Judas’s betrayal at Gethsemane. In the Byzantine Rite, Judas’s betrayal is also recounted, this time with the reading of the Gospel of Matthew 26:6-16 at the evening Presanctified Liturgy of Pope St. Gregory the Great.

The following text are excerpts from St. John Chrysostom’s 80th Homily on Matthew.

St. John’s Homily

Then went one of the twelve, he that was called Judas Iscariot, unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you? 

Then. When? When these things were spoken, when He had said, it is for my burial, and not even thereby was he moved to compunction, neither when he heard that the Gospel should be preached everywhere did he fear (and yet it was the language of unspeakable power), but when women showed so much honor, and women that had been harlots, then he wrought the devil's works.

So great an evil is covetousness, this made him both a traitor, and a sacrilegious robber. Hearken, all you covetous, you that have the disease of Judas; hearken, and beware of the calamity. For if he that was with Christ, and wrought signs, and had the benefit of so much instruction, because he was not freed from the disease, was sunk into such a gulf; how much more shall you, who do not so much as listen to the Scripture, who are constantly riveted to the things present, become an easy prey to this calamity, unless you have the advantage of constant care. 

Every day was that man with Him, who had not where to lay His head, and every day was he instructed by deeds, and by words, not to have gold, nor silver, nor two coats; and yet he was not taught self-restraint; and how do you expect to escape the disease, if you have not the benefit of earnest attention, and dost not use much diligence? For terrible, terrible is the monster, yet nevertheless, if you be willing, you will easily get the better of him. For the desire is not natural; and this is manifest from them that are free from it. For natural things are common to all; but this desire has its origin from remissness alone; hence it takes its birth, hence it derives its increase, and when it has seized upon those who look greedily after it, it makes them live contrary to nature. For when they regard not their fellow countrymen, their friends, their brethren, in a word all men, and with these even themselves, this is to live against nature. 

Whence it is evident that the vice and disease of covetousness, wherein Judas, being entangled, became a traitor, is contrary to nature. And how did he become such a one, you may say, having been called by Christ? Because God's call is not compulsory, neither does it force the will of them who are not minded to choose virtue, but admonishes indeed, and advises, and does and manages all things, so as to persuade men to become good; but if some endure not, it does not compel. But if you would learn from what cause he became such as he was, you will find him to have been ruined by covetousness.

And how was he taken by this calamity? One may say. Because he grew remiss. For hence arise such changes, as on the other hand, those for the better from diligence. How many for instance that were violent, are now more gentle than lambs? How many lascivious persons have become afterwards continent? How many, heretofore covetous, yet now have cast away even their own possessions? And the contrary again has been the result of remissness…

And all these things have I said, to show that if we be vigilant, no one shall harm us; and that the harm arises not from poverty but from ourselves. Wherefore I beseech you with all diligence to put away the pest of covetousness, that we may both be wealthy here, and enjoy the good things eternal, unto which God grant we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory world without end. Amen.