Pope Benedict XVI marked his 85th birthday by reflecting on his final years as he celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving in the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel.
“I find myself on the last stretch of my journey in life, and I don’t know what is awaiting me,” said the Pope in his homily.
“I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that God’s goodness is stronger than any evil in this world. And this helps me go forward with confidence.”
Pope Benedict was born and christened Joseph Alois Ratzinger on Holy Saturday, April 16 1927. At today’s Mass, he thanked his parents for giving him the gift of life and baptism on the same day.
“Life becomes a true gift with it if you can make a promise that is stronger than any evil that will threaten us, if it is dipped into a force that ensures that it is good to be a man,” he said. He explained this is why “birth is associated with rebirth” in baptism, the sacrament which makes us members of the “great, new family of God.”
Before the Mass, Card. Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, praised the Pope for his generosity in carrying out “this service of love” as the Successor of Peter.
“Holy Father, may the Lord continue to remain at your side, accomplishing the promise announced by God to the just man in Psalm 90: ‘With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation,’” said Card. Sodano.
After the Mass, Pope Benedict retired to the Vatican’s Clementine Hall where he was met by a delegation of bishops and civic leaders from his Bavarian homeland in southern Germany.
They provided him with a birthday display of local culture, including a group of children who performed traditional Bavarian dances, clothed in the region’s traditional garb. The youthful troupe then recited a birthday poem in German before presenting the Pope with flowers and a traditional Bavarian maypole or “Maibaum,” which was covered in ribbons.
Bavaria’s state premier, Horst Seehofer, also presented the Pope with a crucifix carved by the 18th-century Bavarian sculptor, Ignaz Günther.
Meanwhile, Card. Reinhard Marx of Munich gave Pope Benedict a basket of traditional foodstuffs, including ham, cakes and dark bread, thought to be the Pope’s favorite.
The pontiff was also serenaded by traditional Bavarian musicians who performed a song that he and his two siblings, Georg and Maria, sang as children while their father, Joseph, played the zither. The Pope’s older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, was present for today’s festivities.
“This is the sound of my childhood,” said a smiling Pope Benedict to his 150 or so guests. The gathering concluded with a communal rendition of the Bavarian anthem.
Since the introduction of the new liturgical texts for Mass this past Advent, we have become accustomed to new words and new expressions in our common prayer. Some of the changes in the Mass are obvious and readily noticed. But not all. There is one change that seems ever so slight and may even go unnoticed. After the consecration, the priest no longer says, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” Instead, he simply announces “The mystery of faith.” Attention to the theological reasons for this change opens us to a richer appreciation of the Eucharist.
Ever since the seventh century, the words “The mystery of faith” have been part of the institution narrative (i.e. the words of consecration). Before the Second Vatican Council’s reform of the liturgy, the priest would say these words inaudibly as part of the consecration of the wine. With the liturgical revisions of 1969, the formula was moved to its present position after the consecration of the wine and the priest was instructed to say the formula audibly “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.”
With our new liturgical texts, the priest now simply says “The mystery of faith.” Why the change? What is the meaning of this formula? What is its purpose in the canon of the Mass?
The priest’s words were shortened in the new missal text to render the Latin text (mysterium fidei) more faithfully. In fact, this shorter formula conveys more accurately the purpose of these words. These words are not an invitation to proclaim the mystery of faith. However, the response “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” does exactly that: it proclaims or declares what the mystery is. And, for that reason, it is no longer used.
Immediately after the consecration, in the anamnesis (memorial) of the Mass, the priest himself proclaims or declares what the mystery is. He recounts the death that Jesus endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven. But before he does that, he says “The mystery of faith.” This is an invitation for the people to make an acclamation, a response to the mystery of faith now present in the Body and Blood of Christ.
An acclamation is different than a proclamation. An acclamation is addressed directly to someone. An acclamation is spoken in the second person, whereas a proclamation is in the third person. In the new missal text, the people speak directly to the Lord himself now present in the Eucharist.
This distinction between proclamation and acclamation is clearly seen in the responses in the new missal. The people now have the choice of using one of three options. They may say, “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again.” Or, “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.” Or, “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.” Even when two of these formulas use the word “proclaim,” the whole formula itself is not a proclamation, but an acclamation, because the words in the second person are directed to the Lord.
The phrase “The mystery of faith” that invites our response after the consecration is one of the most powerful phrases in the Roman liturgy. The word “mystery” is a densely rich biblical word. It means God’s plan for the creation of the world and for our salvation hidden for all eternity and gradually revealed and accomplished in Christ.
The mystery is God bringing us to share in his own divine life through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It is God reconciling and restoring the world in Christ (Eph 1:9-14). The mystery is Christ in the paschal events made sacramentally present. The letter to the Colossians speaks of the mystery as “Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2-3). Thus, Christ himself is the mystery.
When the priest says immediately after the consecration, “The mystery of faith,” he is drawing our attention to Christ, Crucified, Risen and Ascended, now among us. The words of the priest remind us that Christ is here among us to form us as his body “the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23). Thus, Jesus now sacramentally, truly and really in our midst, is bringing to completion in us the fullness of our redemption.
In sacrament, the Eucharist is the mystery of faith: Jesus accomplishing our salvation through his sacrificial death on the cross and his glorious resurrection. How can our hearts not overflow with wonder and awe! How fervent should be our spontaneous response to this great gift! Ultimately, the Eucharist, now present on our altar after the consecration, demands our response not simply in words of acclamation, but in a life that is a true proclamation of Easter faith.
Bp. Serratelli is the bishop of Paterson, New Jersey.
As his college newspaper grew increasingly leftist, then-student Joseph Koss helped launch a campus newspaper with a conservative perspective. Fast-forward five years through law school, a revival of his faith and a move from the Detroit metro area to the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska in late 2009, and Koss was struck by the realization that again he’d lost his voice. This time he launched a blog, “Defend Us in Battle.”
“I was never really a writer. I don’t really even consider writing a strong point. I’m more of a commentator, trying to send a message,” Koss told the Catholic Anchor. “I’m trained as a lawyer. I’m trying to present facts and arguments to convince people of new ideas, or old. I’m an advocate of the faith.”
With the Vatican now embracing social media and the US bishops galvanizing the populace to speak out in defense of the church, cyberspace is ripe for evangelization. The Web delivers a pulpit and a boundless audience to bloggers like Koss on the Kenai Peninsula, and Tiffany Borges and Mindy Goorchenko in the Anchorage area.
They feel called to counter the pervasive misinformation, anti-Catholicism and immorality that’s competing for followers among the same worldwide audience, and they all feel inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s recent urging for the faithful to utilize the Internet as an untapped frontier.
“Our Holy Father encourages us to do it (blog), to be Catholic Online and to use the social networking sites for evangelization, and to share our joy and provide another voice in what can be such a degrading place,” said Goorchenko, a nurse and mother of five young children who still feels it is important to make the time to regularly blog.
“When I don’t feel like posting anything, I definitely feel motivated by Pope Benedict’s encouragement to keep doing it, to fulfill that mandate,” she said.
“We need to bring a soul to the Internet,” expounded Borges, whose new blog “Lox Populi” was picked up in its infancy by New Advent, a compilation of noteworthy Catholic blogs worldwide.
“Catholicism has to have a forum there (Online),” Borges added. “If we’re silent about topics that are uncomfortable or delicate, then the other side — for lack of a better word — wins.”
Proselytizing Online is simultaneously simple and daunting. Anyone can publish a blog, but to preach publicly about theology and church doctrine is to assume a certain amount of authority and accountability. One could be wrong. Or, one could be right and suffer the consequences.
Some of Borges’ relatives defriended her on Facebook. A priest rebuked Koss. But other priests have reposted his blog, and his writings have tallied up to 121,000 views.
“The hardest part is making sure that what I’m doing is godly and benefiting Christ, the church, the pope and my fellow Catholics,” Koss said. “Every blogger wants readers and has personal and ego-driven reasons for writing because they think what they have to say is important. When you’re dealing with the faith, you have an even higher calling, a higher duty and a higher responsibility.”
“It’s inevitable that the new evangelism will happen there (in blogs and social media),” Goorchenko said. “When I see somebody reach my blog from a country like China or Vietnam or a place that is hostile toward Christianity, that is very exciting to me.”
These emerging bloggers spread the Word in different voices. Borges’ “Lox Populi”, — the title is a play on the Latin words vox populi (voice of the people) with a nod to her love for lox — is witty and sassy yet jovial, a style she describes as “barroom apologetics.” She created the blog in January in part to continue the fun she experienced writing a Christmas letter. While her blog title and tone may be playful, in two months Borges has tackled rabble rousing topics from the Pill and feminism to homosexuality.
“There are moments when I think, ‘This is too crass or too scrappy,’ but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I believe it will be OK,” she said.
Koss, who grew up in a non-practicing Catholic family and rediscovered Catholicism at Ave Maria School of Law, mostly analyzes current events from a “militantly Catholic” viewpoint.
He strives to be a “warrior” blogging with a sincere desire to save souls, if even just one. The masthead of his “Defend Us in Battle” page features Saint Michael the Archangel and an ominous scriptural quotation.
One popular post of his in 2010 opened with, “We are at WAR. This is not puffery. Our souls and the souls of those that we love are in mortal peril.”
More recently, he posted, “I write what I believe, and I try and make sure that I align those beliefs with the heart of Christ and the mind of the church.”
Goorchenko takes an inviting personal approach to “The Devout Life” blog, infusing the fellowship of a neighborhood Bible study or parish social.
Since converting to Catholicism in 2009, the practiced “mommy blogger” fairly recently shifted from anecdotes about her five children to reflections on Catholic life.
She started “The Devout Life” as an outlet to share her observations while reading “Introduction to the Devout Life,” a manual by Saint Francis de Sales about living devoutly and growing in virtue while busy raising a family.
A recent post described her family’s commitment to forego electricity on “Wilderness Wednesdays” during Lent. Her blog currently functions as a virtual reading club discussing Vatican II documents.
“Many people who are curious about the church are not going to step into one. I write it for not only Catholics but non-Catholics who may be open-minded and interested in learning about the Catholic faith and spirituality,” Goorchenko said. “My purpose is to present a window into the daily life of a Catholic to explore how we live in the world without being of the world, and to convey the joy of being a Catholic and encountering Christ and the sacraments.”
Borges, a 2005 convert, said lay bloggers are uniquely suited for evangelization. Priests have an established following, but they must evaluate the risk of alienating members if their homilies are too austere. Journalists are censored by editors and media conglomerates. Bloggers, however, are unrestrained.
“This is a serious role,” Borges said. “If it’s not useful to someone, then it’s just detracting from time with my family and promoting my own opinion.”
Goorchenko agreed. “We have to remember that there’s a person on the other side (of the screen) who is using this technology to feel connected and find meaning in life. If we can make ourselves available in that strange Online space that is still relatively new to everyone, we have a special opportunity to connect with that human being and bring Christ to that person in some way,” she said. “It’s a whole new frontier.”
Posted with permission from the Catholic Anchor, official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Alaska.
The association to being a Christian and a Catholic comes with a great personal responsibility. It is no doubt an expectation of those who know us to be a Christian that we act like one. This is a natural expectation.
People seem to lose the focus about what they expect from a Christian when it comes to forgiveness and mercy. It’s more important that the Christian is expected to show mercy rather than they not commit sin. To sin is human, but to forgive is Godly. Jesus clearly prioritizes forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
Forgive me, but only in the measure that I forgive. That is what Jesus taught us to pray.
Rather than focus here on the forgiver, I want to focus on the forgivee; the person who is seeking the forgiveness of Christ through the person they have offended. It’s a terrible thing for a person to “assume” they will be forgiven just because the person you’ve offended is a Christian. It may very well be that a Christian is expected to forgive, but you are expected to be truly sorry for what you have done.
As we continue in Lent and the spirit of fasting, it would be nice if we could see many people fasting from the empty apologies, or for those who find it hard to ask forgiveness to fast from the pride that keeps them from saying “I’m sorry” when it is called for.
First, there are those who constantly say they’re sorry. Perhaps they continue to do the same thing over and over, expecting the person they’ve repeatedly offended be there with, “That’s okay” after saying “sorry.” They have developed a way of life where doing things that upset someone is normal, and the forgiveness by that person expected. There is no end to this cycle of offenses because the person forgiving wants to forgive and move on, but the offender is not truly sorry.
When we’ve hurt someone, we need to be repair that damage. We need to feel sorrow and feel determined not to repeat our mistake. We then need to confess what we’ve done, and make up for it. The fundamental penance is to change and make things better than they were.
In order for someone to take you seriously about your apology, the words must be backed up with action.
This is how we raise our children. You hit your brother? Say you’re sorry and give him a hug.
Perhaps the constant saying of “I’m sorry” is by one who finds the word “sorry” to be meaningless by also saying it for every little thing that happens that has no need of an apology. This is the overly polite sorrow. You grab for the salt at the same time someone else goes for it and you say “Oh, I’m sorry, go ahead.” You come out of the mall with a friend toward your car and it’s raining and you say “Gosh, I’m sorry about this.”
You’re sorry. Are you really sorry? For reaching for the salt? For making your friend walk to the car in the rain? This is an abuse of the word sorry. I realize every one of us do it. But it is worth taking the time to observe ourselves and realize just how often we say “I’m sorry,” when there is nothing at all to be sorry for. It’s important because you want to be a person who when you say “I’m sorry,” you mean it.
Then there is the person who doesn’t say “I’m sorry.” As many times as they do something that warrants an apology, they will not. Whether they are purposely not saying it or have just developed the habit of not saying it, the result of refraining from saying “I’m sorry” has the same affect. Even if you ARE sorry and act accordingly, it’s very important to work on saying the words. It matters.
It’s better to have someone who takes action to repent but not apologize than someone who says they’re sorry but never makes the necessary changes. But if you are a person who does not say the words, then you have to get in the habit of doing so. It matters to the person you have offended to experience both the words “I’m sorry” and the actions to repent. Sincere apologies are an important vehicle for building trust.
Start now, today, examining your life in the “I’m sorry” department. How often or little do you say it? When you do say it, do you mean it? What is your track record of proving your sorrow after telling someone you are sorry? How can someone know you are sorry?
This has to with sincerity. Are you a sincere person? Can your “I’m sorry” be trusted? Ponder this and how this applies to your own life.
Sincere apologies, an effort toward reparation, and sincere forgiveness builds trust. Trust creates the foundation of true love.
Trust in relationships is not about an absolute arrival at trustworthiness, is about the building and rebuilding of trust via humility and acts of forgiveness. No one is perfect, and becoming a truly sincere person of sorrow takes time and practice.
We must always work on maintaining our trustworthiness. Apologizing with true contrition and a spirit of reparation is a gesture of restoring or proving how trustworthy we are.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
Rebellion can either serve or defeat, as can acquiescence. To rebel against status quo in seeking excellence or truth is a great thing. If society tells us to “fit in,” but also to set aside all that is moral or good, than obviously, we need to rebel against that pressure.
Rebellion that sends us into the “netherworld” is misdirected, often born of pride. To rebel, but then avoid a sincere search for truth, leads us to that existence “where questions stand thick and solid as skyscrapers.”
Fine. We are all inclined to rebel now and then, an instinct born of human nature. But do we use this instinct as a catalyst, taking time to really dig for reasonable answers? So often, people fling about in an orgy of experience and disbelief, seeking what “feels right,” instead of filling in the gaps with some real answers born of research and reflection.
Regarding tough questions about my faith, I’ve learned to launch an investigation, just as I would for any story I write. I explore early Church writers, Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, encyclicals. This kind of rigor is so satisfying when it comes to thinking and praying about life’s great mysteries. In the end, I’ve discovered the beauty of informed acquiescence.
Rebellion has another facet. Do we rebel against life circumstances? Sometimes, that type of rebellion can be productive, helping us transform a harmful home, school, work or even civic environment—if we initiate change with a healthy respect and consideration of others. But if we are presented a tough circumstance, like a child with a terminal illness or a catastrophic accident, do we rail against that event, or accept and move on in faith?
Rebellion and acquiescence. How do I choose one over the other? God knows, my natural instincts lead me to push back fiercely at times, averse to pain or difficulty. But learning to thrive within certain limitations, builds rich character. To respect ourselves, we must put up a fight—for the good—learning to work optimistically and at peak level within restrictions.
Who is God calling me to be? Moving blindly through an unexamined life is dissatisfying. Thank God for the light He gives, that turns rebellion into inspired acts, as the soul hungers to accept God’s Will.
As for that “same worn plot,” those old, ingrained sins get tedious after a while! Thank God for the Actual Grace of His sacraments, that frees us and strews flowers along the path. I am no Mother Teresa, who strived through decades of dryness. I’ve experienced time and again how God gifts the weak with consolations, like Padre Pio once fed chocolates to new converts.
May our Holy Week be blessed!
The Nature of Faith
We shape our lives by rebellion or acquiescence.
To rebel is to slingshot our identity into the netherworld
where questions stand thick and solid as skyscrapers.
To accept is to ascend the tallest bell tower
with an overview of the city.
Most of us transcend then fall transcend
then fall again trodding the same worn plot
like a sentry guarding city gates.
Determined to defend
what seems unattainable
we guard we know not what
until, with faith,
we gain eternal entry.
Marianna Bartholomew is winner of six national Catholic Press Association Journalism Awards and Chicago’s 1993 Cardinal’s Communications Award for Professional Excellence. Her articles have appeared in EXTENSION Magazine, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic Digest and in Chicago’s Catholic New World and other diocesan newspapers across the nation. Former Managing Editor of Catholic Home Mission EXTENSION Magazine, Bartholomew has traveled to and reported on conditions in the poorest, most isolated pockets of our nation. Blessed to be a wife and homeschooling mother of three, she now teaches in a homeschool cooperative, freelance writes from her Chicago area home, and is completing her first novel for young adults. She blogs at finerfields.blogspot.com. View all articles by Marianna Bartholomew.
Is there a week in the year that rivals the beauty and power of Holy Week? To paraphrase the Haggadah, why is this world-wide celebration different from all other weeks of the year?
Like the Jewish observance of Passover, Christians recall, relive, and celebrate the Pasch, the Paschal Mystery of the Lord. Christians will be engaged in reliving the drama of the world’s salvation even in countries that repress religious freedom. The faithful will listen to the centuries-old narrative of the Exodus event, to that of the prophets foretelling the adversity of the Suffering-Servant-Messiah, and to the witness of the disciples to the Resurrection of the Lord.
During this week, the entire person is raised up through the liturgy which sensitizes our seeing, hearing and singing, tasting, smelling, and especially in touching the Word of Life. Christians participate in the circular movement that first descended to us in the Incarnation and ascends in return to God through the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord. In the process, the Christian can be transformed into a new and beautiful creation. This spectacular reality comes alive, for example, in the Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and in Händel’s Messiah where the words tell us what to think and the music, what to feel.
Predictions of the Paschal Mystery in Hebrew Scriptures
Jesus predicted his passion and death to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. The most explicit of these are found in Isaiah, chapters 50-53, but at least one hundred of them are scattered throughout the Old Testament detailing Jesus’ final hours. In fact, centuries before Christ, they predicted that the expected Messiah would be despised and rejected by men and would suffer as a just man (Ps 22, 24, 60; Is 53, Ez 37:1-15; 2 Mac 7:57; 4 Mac 6:27-29; 17:12; 18:4, and Is 53). The idea of the Suffering Servant-Messiah ran through these prophecies, and in the New Testament, scriptural verses support those in the Old. Jesus is the only historical figure who has fulfilled these uncanny prophecies, some of which are given below:
1. Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king riding on an ass (Zech 9:9, Mt 21:5). 2. He was betrayed by a friend (Ps 41:9, Jn 13:21) and sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:12, Mt 26:15; Lk 22:5). These pieces of silver were given for the potter’s field and cast in the temple (Zech 11:13, Mt 27:9-10). 3. His friends deserted him (Zech 13:7, Mt 26:56), and others gave false witness about him (Ps 35:11, Mt 26:60). 4. In his last hours, he was spat upon and scourged (Is 50:6, 53:5, Mt 27:26,30) and struck on the cheek (Micah 5:1, Mt 27:30). 5. The Messiah was called the sacrificial lamb (Is 53:5, Jn 1:29) who was given up for a new covenant (Is 42:6; Jer 31:31-34, Rom 11:27; Gal 3:17, 424; Heb 8:6, 8,10;10:16, 29; 12:24; 13:20); 6. He was despised, rejected by men (Is 53:3:1-6), the one who bore “our grief” (Is 53:4, 6); “and with his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5).
Other details of the final hours of the Lord’s passion and death are remarkably prescient:
1. He was rejected by his own (Is 53:3, Mt 21:42; Mark 8:31, 12:10; Luke 9:22, 17:25). “All we like sheep … all that see him laugh him to scorn (Is 53, 5, 7); He trusted in God (Ps 22: 8); “Thy rebuke hath broken his heart” (Ps 49:21); Behold and see if there be any sorrow (Lamentations 1:12); “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29). 2. He was crucified with criminals (Is 53:12, Mt 27:35); his body was pierced (Zech 12:10; Ps 22:16, Jn 20:25, 27). 3. He expressed thirst during execution (Ps 22:16, Jn 19:28) and was given vinegar and gall for thirst (Ps 69:21, Mt 27:34). 4. Soldiers gambled for his garment (Ps 22:18, Mt 27:35). 5. People mocked him, “He trusted in God, let Him deliver him (Ps 22:7-8, Mt 27:43). They sat there looking at him (Ps 22:17, Mt 27:36). 6. He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1, Mt 27:46). 7. No bones broken (Ps 34:20; Num 9:12, Jn 19:33-36), but his side was pierced (Zech 12:10, Jn 19:34). 8. Darkness covered the land (Amos 8:9, Mt 27:45). 9. He was buried with the rich (Is 53:9, Mt 27:57, 60). 10. He ascended to right hand of God (Ps 68:18, Lk 24:51); his glory is predicted (Mal 2:2-3; Lk 3:17).
The Human and Divine
Jesus’ passion and death is to be considered on two levels, the human and the divine. Its human context is found in malice. On Palm Sunday, Jesus returns to Jerusalem to celebrate the Pasch knowing full well that he will suffer because of the mounting hostility against him. After all, he blasphemed claiming to be the Son of God. In the course of observing these holy days, the events quickly unravel before our eyes.
Institution of the Eucharist and the Washing of Feet
Jesus’ last celebration of the Passover began like others. However, on this night, a substantial change takes place. The words Jesus speaks will become the hallmark of Catholic faith. He takes and blesses the life-blood of the Jews symbolized by unleavened bread and the wine–the one, symbolizing the bread of affliction, the manna of the desert, and the other, symbolizing the blood of the slaughtered lamb (Ex 12:8).
He inserts new words accompanying the action giving new meaning and content to the ceremony. When he breaks the bread and says: “This is my body … ” he shares the sacred food with the Twelve. At the third cup of wine, the cup of blessing and consecration, Jesus declares: “This is the cup of my blood … ” He gives it to them to drink. Though the eye sees no change, the believing heart grasps the truth.
In the Jewish Passover, the bread, wine, and the sacrificial roasted lamb were offered, blessed, and consumed by the children of Israel to seal their union with God. The Exodus prepared the nation for two events: the covenant on Mt. Sinai and the anticipation of the heavenly banquet in the kingdom of God. Similarly, in the Eucharist, the same signs and symbols are used–bread, wine, and Jesus, the sacrificial lamb. The act of memorial does not simply recall the Last Supper. The action of Christ is singular, without precedent, and without metaphor or analogy in the entire Jewish tradition even though it emerges from the tradition.
The meal becomes a lasting memorial of Jesus’ love and the context for a lesson the Apostles will not forget. The washing of feet was the typical task of a slave. Why, Peter wonders, does the Master insist on washing his feet? He recoils, but Jesus admonishes him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me” (Jn 13:8). Peter is free to refuse, but Jesus presses for his consent. If Peter wants to unite himself with his Master, then he must renounce power and choose a servile but loving act. Peter realizes that what Jesus has done for and to him, he Peter must repeat to and for others. He too must share in the Lord’s redemptive work for the sake of others. Henceforth, the mandate given to Peter will be a loving service for Christian discipleship.
The events following the Supper confront us as chaotic treachery, chicanery, and cowardice. The logic of Good Friday contradicts all human logic. What novelist could have imagined this scenario? The story is wild, inconceivable, and appalling. In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:5-11), the divine plan of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery hovers over universal redemption. Christianity proclaims that Jesus saves us all by canceling out Adam’s pride and disobedience with humility and obedience. As a result, we are redeemed, liberated but not without our cooperation with God’s grace. He pieces our brokenness. St. Paul saw in the Passover the mystery of Christ, both in figure and symbol. As the Jews glory in the saving events of Passover, so too Christians glory in the cross of the Lord Jesus, for in him is our salvation, our life, and resurrection. How many times have we heard that his suffering of love is undertaken pro me and pro nobis!
All have been saved and made free, and each of us is a player on the stage of this drama, as Shakespeare puts it so well. On stage, there are no static, gaping stand-ins, no extras, and no absentees. We are Peter and Judas, the thieves on the cross, the crowds and the guards–all in need of God’s mercy. We are Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, and the beloved disciple, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.
To the universal question, why suffering, we respond: there is no satisfactory answer. The cross has always contradicted human logic. It is folly, a scandal, a stumbling-block (1 Cor 1: 21-22). Suffering hurts, does violence to our sensibilities. In a particular way, the Book of Exodus initiates us into God’s folly, God’s logic. Despite God’s command that Moses seek the release of the Jews, Moses is forewarned. God will make the ruler obstinate so that he will refuse the request. God will thwart the plan given to Moses. When all seems lost, God’s inscrutable logic steps in. It saves the Jews in the Passover-Exodus event. God’s foolish plan is wiser than Moses’ logic. The Jewish Exodus was all God’s work.
The lesson is simple, if maddening. Like the Israelites, we do not save ourselves in the way we want but by God’s providential power and our cooperation with it expressed as “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5)–the attitude which was Christ’s (1 Cor 2:5 ). Suffering has no satisfactory answer, but Jesus, in his human nature, shows us how to suffer. Without the suffering of love, acceptance of pain is a mindless and servile act.
Contemporary logic, which boasts of self-sufficiency, rejects Christ’s suffering of love. But Jesus helps his disciples to make sense out of suffering, not according to the human way of thinking, but according to his. He brings his followers to the cross and, sooner or later, expects us to understand it as christological logic. Despite Paul’s emphatic declaration that the cross is God’s wisdom and power to save (1 Cor 1:17, 25; 2:5), St. Catherine of Siena, in her Dialogue, gives us a tender response: “Oh, Loving Madman! Was it not enough for Thee to become Incarnate, that Thou must also die?” On September 14th, the Church “lifts high the cross” because God’s weakness and folly prove stronger and wiser than that of creatures. For the disciple of Christ, the only logic is that of love. Love alone makes suffering credible, bearable, and beautiful.
The Resurrection: the Glory of the Lord
The folly of the cross is the glory of the Lord (Phil 2:9-11). The cross of Jesus was his resurrection. His life was the candle that burned itself out in order to give its light to all. The folly of human suffering becomes our glory, but we see this after the fact. In Psalm 22, we see the faithful soul suffering and forsaken, but we also see that soul who places itself entirely in the hands of the Lord who will deliver it.
The Psalm closes with the afflicted one praising the Lord. On the cross, Jesus manifested the meaning of Psalm 22 in his prayer to the Father. Jesus foretold his last hours on the cross: “If I be lifted up, I will draw all things to myself” (Jn 12:32). In raising up Jesus, the Father transforms his death into glory. As the Son breathes out his Spirit, the Father glorifies him and proclaims him to be Lord of the universe. The circular motion is complete. The whole of creation is raised with him in resurrection glory.
Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Brentwood, NY, holds degrees in philosophy (PhL), musicology (PhD), theology (MA), and liturgical studies (PhD). She has taught at all levels of Catholic education and writes with a particular focus on a theology of beauty and the sacred arts. Her Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent we heard, Jesus proclaim, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” but what does that mean?
Is this Kingdom still to come such that we might participate in bringing it to fulfillment, or is the reign of Christ the King a present reality that we are duty bound to proclaim? The answer is yes!
Sadly, however, we all-too-often fail to do our part.
The book of Wisdom speaks rather poignantly to the present day situation wherein our political leaders in Washington presume to exercise their authority, not just beyond that which is granted them in the US Constitution, but over and against the Kingship of Christ.
“For thy judgments, O Lord, are great, and thy words cannot be expressed: therefore undisciplined souls have erred. For while the wicked thought to be able to have dominion over the holy nation, they themselves being fettered with the bonds of darkness, and a long night, shut up in their houses, lay there exiled from the eternal providence.” (Ws 17:1-2)
We, unlike Solomon, are not living in that age during which the Divine words could not be expressed; rather, to us has the fullness of God’s Revelation been given in Christ Jesus and entrusted to the Church as custodian and teacher.
The Church and Her members have thus been commissioned by the Lord, not just to revel in His truth privately as if content to dwell in a Catholic ghetto, but to profess to all the world that Jesus is Lord, leading the undisciplined souls into that Kingdom into which all the nations are destined to be gathered.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to our solemn obligation as follows:
The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is “the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.” By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them “to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which (they) live.” The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church. Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies. (CCC 2105)
By this standard, we must admit that the overwhelming majority of us—clergy and laity alike – have fallen terribly short in recent decades; some by weakness, others by ignorance.
In truth, far too few in the Church today seem willing to risk the ostracization that most certainly will come for making it known that the Catholic faith is the one true religion that all men have a moral duty to embrace. Likewise, even our most prominent voices stop short of proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Sovereign over all creation, behaving instead as though the Lord’s Kingship is just a “Catholic thing.”
This is especially evident in the way so many of our leaders tend to fence political with those who exercise civil authority rather than upbraiding them as Jesus did Satan saying, “The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve” (as we heard in the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent).
Oh yes, I’ve heard the argument before, “If we want to have any impact at all we must speak to our politicians about policy initiatives, civil law and the like; not esoteric religious principles they will never accept!”
Entirely logical though this strategy may seem, the fatal flaw lies in the simple fact that it’s not what the Lord commissioned us to do. Sure, we should make political arguments when warranted, but let’s not forget that we are called first and foremost to proclaim the word of Christ.
Given our reluctance to do so of late, one may ask concerning our wayward politicians the very same questions posed by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans:
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:14,17)
Some of those believers who first received this exhortation responded by embracing a martyr’s death, and though the call itself hasn’t changed, we certainly have. Ours is a generation of the timid; a people who take refuge in the “can’t we all just get along” attitude formally enshrined in the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty.
I have addressed this topic in this space a number of times in the past, mainly by referencing the traditional teachings of the Roman Pontiffs (Leo XIII, Pius XI, and others), but with so many modern day Catholics wrongly assuming that the Council has effectively trumped all of the Magisterium that preceded it, perhaps a different approach is in order.
I would propose, therefore, to do a little ressourcement of my own (a French term invoked in the conciliar debates meaning a “return to sources”) by looking to Sacred Scripture as the basis for our understanding of the temporal dimension of Christ’s Kingship.
First, consider carefully the words that Our Lord spoke to Pilate: “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over; but my kingship is not from the world” (Jn 18:36).
Notice that Jesus does not say that His servants will not fight in this world; indeed they must, but not as the worldly do. Rather, the servants of Christ the King will wage war by wielding weaponry that comes from a share in the Divine power.
“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” (2 Cor. 10:3-6)
When St. Paul says that our war is not worldly, he does not mean to imply that we have no battlefields here in the present order. Our Lord came to redeem all of creation; therefore, we can fully expect that among the strongholds that will be brought to heel by Christ are those in this world, often through the co-operative actions of His faithful servants.
Nowhere does Jesus suggest that His Kingship has no dominion over this world; rather, He lets it be known that His kingdom is greater than this world. He even tells Pilate that the only reason he has any power whatsoever is that it has been given to him from above, a very clear indication of the duty incumbent upon all earthly rulers to uphold Divine truth.
And where does this power now rest in its fullness today?
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” said the Risen Lord. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”(Mt. 28:18-20)
Jesus does not speak of having authority in heaven alone, but also “on earth,” nor does He commission the Church to make disciples simply of “individual people” but rather of “all nations.”
Yes, it is indeed individual people who are baptized into Christ, but the mission of the Church is to build the Kingdom of God in the here-and-now; into that Holy Nation once foreshadowed in the people Israel. This Kingdom is indeed a spiritual reality, but it is one that is made manifest in the temporal order as the work of redemption is brought to completion by Christ working through His Body, the Church.
Returning to the Wisdom of Solomon, we who by grace possess the Light of the World in Christ and yet fail to fully shine it in this culture of darkness bear some responsibility for those rulers of State who err by presuming to have dominion over the Lord and His Church.
There has ever been but one faithful response, and that is preaching with neither timidity nor apology the social Kingship of Christ and the singular glory of the Church that He founded – the Catholic Church—the one true religion and universal sacrament of salvation.
And why shouldn’t we? This is, after all, the Good News.
Author and speaker Louie Verrecchio has been a columnist for Catholic News Agency since April 2009. He recently launched “Preparing the Way for the Roman Missal—Where the New Translation meets the New EvangelizationTM” available at www.MissalPrep.com.
Verrecchio’s work, which includes the internationally acclaimed Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II Faith Formation Series, has been endorsed by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia; Bp.-Emeritus Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, England, Bp. R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, IA, USA, and others. For more information please visit: www.harvestingthefruit.com
“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others.” –St. Clare of Assisi
We are destined to become a resurrected and glorious son or daughter of God, with God forever in heaven. Our life on this earth is a time of becoming that saint through the sufferings and failures of this life, as well as the restoration by grace and virtuous lives we live.
Fundamental to becoming a resurrected son or daughter is the requirement to first become crucified with the Lord Jesus Christ in this gift of life we have been given.
For Catholics, the Crucifix is essential for living out our daily lives. The Crucifix is the symbol of Christ’s ultimate act of love for us. The Crucifix depicts Jesus nailed to the cross and dying for our sins. We hang a crucifix on the walls of our homes and wear a crucifix on a chain around our necks so that we will be visibly reminded of Jesus’ love for us and our redemption.
For those who desire a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, the Crucifix also serves as an ideal focus of meditation. Abp. Fulton J. Sheen said that the summary of all our sins can be found on the Crucifix. It is, therefore, the perfect way to examine our consciences.
Examining our consciences while gazing on the Crucifix will differ from person to person primarily depending on our state in life. For unmarried Catholics who are open to marriage, an examination of conscience while meditating on the Crucifix should include considerations related to the desire and efforts toward marriage.
Everything Jesus suffered on the cross has a direct correlation to any and every sin possible to commit, and he suffered through His body for them all. The following is an example of what an Examination of Conscience might be for those who are single, dating, and desiring to be married one day, as they meditate on the Crucifix.
The Sacred Head crowned with thorns–The sins we commit in our mind
The head containing the very mind of God with all wisdom and knowledge is used for a sick joke to mock Him as king by the crowning with piercing thorns.
Do I allow and foster impure thoughts?
Do I allow myself to think ill will about members of the opposite sex?
Am I still scarred from past relationships that my attitude going into a new relationship is to be close minded?
Do I harbor resentment for those who have hurt me in the past, and allow that to affect my current relationship?
Am I thinking about other things while with someone I’m dating?
Do I think about someone else I would prefer to be with?
Do I date people I already know I would never be open to love and marriage with just to have someone to go on a date with?
Do I think about inappropriate sexual things while on a date?
Do I try to think of ways to get the person I am dating to have sex with me?
The hands nailed to the wood of the cross–The sins we commit with our hands
Hands that touched and were raised for healing and performing miracles are nailed to wood like common parchment.
Have I tried to touch a person I’m dating inappropriately or impurely?
Have I ever physically hit someone I’m dating?
Have I avoided doing things for the person I’m dating like cooking for them, or doing works of charity?
Do I masturbate while looking at images of the opposite sex or thinking about the person I’m dating?
Do I type dishonest information about myself or send uncharitable messages on dating Web sites?
The feet nailed to the wood of the cross–The sins we commit with our feet
The feet that took Jesus all over Judea so that so many people could experience the Incarnate Word among us and come to believe are now made stationary with one nail through both feet.
Do I make extra efforts to get to places I should go that benefit others and myself, or am I too lazy?
Do I busy myself too much going here and there, depriving myself of necessary rest?
Do I avoid going out on dates because I would rather indulge in my own selfish interests?
Do I procrastinate going to places or into environments that offer me a chance to meet a quality person of the opposite sex?
Would I rather stay home and wait for God to bring my future spouse to my front door, or do I keep my feet moving to do my part so God can do His part?
Do I walk with people who will enhance me as a person, or prefer those who get me into trouble or lead me away from God?
The body of Christ stripped of His garments–The sins we commit of the flesh
As if He is not humiliated enough from the scourging and the carrying of his cross, Jesus is made to be fully exposed in body as His clothes are removed.
Have I exposed myself to a person I’m dating inappropriately?
Have I tried to remove clothing in an attempt to engage in pre-marital sex?
Do I show too much of my body publicly?
Am I mindful that chastity is as much in the mind as in the flesh or the manner of dressing?
Have I become numb, indifferent, conditioned to nudity or exposed flesh that I’m no longer affected by it, or don’t even realize I should be affected by it?
Do I strip people of their dignity through my callus or cruel words and behavior?
Do take pride in clothing my body and the way I should cloth my body?
Have I stripped myself of all that would distract me from God, or at least made a lifelong commitment to daily work on all that would distract me from God?
The Sacred Heart pierced with a lance–The sins we commit in our heart
Blood and water bursts out from Jesus’ side after his Sacred Heart is pierced, showering the crowds with the fullest extent of His love and cleansing those who would be splashed with the graces of mercy.
Am I protective of the heart of the person I’m dating?
Am I careful not to break the heart of the person I’m dating through insensitivity or selfishness?
Do I see the heart of the person I date as something to win and make feel safe?
Am I too quick to feel love for someone I’m dating as to make it vulnerable to heartbreak?
Is my heart closed off and too guarded as to not allow a nice person I’m dating to get to know me and to foster love?
Am I patient and gentle about creating a homey atmosphere that makes the other feel safe to share themselves with me?
Am I a good friend, or am I hard to get to know and too quick to cut someone off when things go wrong?
Is my heart forgiving with a motive for bringing about peace, or do I prefer unrest and discord because of hardened heart?
Do I lust after members of the opposite sex in my heart?
Does my heart desire things that are incompatible with true love and marriage?
Do I allow my heart to be attached to someone whom I could never be married to?
Is my heart pure, allowing me to see God in everyone?
Is my heart open to change in myself?
Am I flexible with the things that happen in life, or is my heart sad when things don’t go as planned?
Is my heart in the right place, or do I have ulterior motives in the things I do for or say to the those I am dating?
Are my priorities straight when it comes to what and who I love?
Do I let my heart rule my decisions instead of consulting my mind and determine what is most prudent and for the best despite my feelings?
Do I love God with all my heart and desire to keep His commandments, or do I prefer my own will, or attached to someone too much that I willingly desire to please them before God?
The outstretched arms–The sins we commit of being unwelcoming
Jesus’ arms are pulled out as far as they can go, as if to show us that God loves us that much. Who among us can ever extend our arms out in full and say we love anyone that much?
Am I a welcoming person and make people feel comfortable?
Are my arms always outstretched and open to comforting those who need it?
Do I offer my arms to give hugs?
Do I offer the person I’m dating chaste hugs to show my affection and care?
Is my attitude in life to smile and open my arms to receive, or do I always look miserable and reserved and keep my arms to my side as to be stand offish?
Can everyone find mercy with me, or am I easily offended and make people feel guilty or inferior?
The suffering in silence–The sins we commit with our lips and our speech
Amidst the chaos of the crowd shouting at Jesus to save Himself and come down from the cross, He silently endures, speaking very little, and only when necessary.
Am I quick to talk and slow to listen?
Do I complain about every little thing when I should endure it silently and patiently?
Do I speak without thinking or consideration for the other person?
Do I enjoy bad mouthing about the opposite sex and bad dates?
Do I remain silent and accept annoying things on a date, or do I insist on making comments?
Do I look for positive things to say about the person I’m dating?
Do I say “I’m sorry” when I have said or done something wrong?
Do I say things that will help resolve problems with the person I’m dating, or do I remain silent and allow things to get worse while waiting for the other to make things right?
Do I say the words “I love you” without backing it up with my actions?
Do I speak kindly and with self control, or do I raise my voice or shout to make my points?
Do I monopolize conversation or talk only about myself?
Do I no talk enough and keep to myself too much while making the other uncomfortable trying to find things to talk about?
Am I abusive in my conversations with the person I‘m dating, making them feel bad, hurting their feelings, or trying to manipulate them?
Do I have a sincere desire to use the gift of speech to build up others and not tear them down?
The eyes impaired by blood and closing from death approaching–The sins we commit with our eyes
The blood from Jesus’ pierced head drips into his eyes, which now have only a distorted vision of the world.
Do I look appropriately at the opposite sex?
Do I realize that my eyes are the windows to my soul and everything I look at affects me?
Do I lack the will power to guard my eyes from those things I know are wrong?
Do I partake in looking at pornography?
Do I watch too much television or too many movies?
Do I over-indulge in visual entertainment, or watching the news?
Do I feel I need to see the things I allow myself to see?
Do I make eye contact with the person I’m dating, or do I look away a lot?
Do I make my date feel uncomfortable by looking at him or her inappropriately?
Do I look around at other members of the opposite sex while I’m out with the person I’m dating?
Am I wise and prudent about what I watch and read?
Do I criticize the person I’m dating when I observe what they do?
Do I observe the needs of the person I’m dating and act, or am I to self-absorbed to notice?
Do I pay close attention to the things that are unique about the person I’m dating and their interests so I can really get to know them?
Do I do things for the person I’m dating that shows that I have been paying attention to who they are?
The blood poured out from every part of the body–The sins we commit from holding back giving our life to others
With all the life of Jesus extinguishing from His body, His ultimate decision to lay down His life for us proves the truth of what it means to love.
Am I the kind of person who will do anything for anyone without counting the costs?
Do I desire to pour out my life for the person I will eventually marry?
Do I practice the concept of total self giving through the people that are in my life?
Am I selfish?
Do I prefer to always have what I want and do what I want, before considering the needs of others?
Am I impatient with the person I date and don’t give the relationship a chance to develop?
Am I only looking for someone who will serve me and please me in every way, or for someone whom I can serve and give my entire self to?
Do I have the capability of loving someone with all their faults and imperfections, or am I only willing to consider marriage if I know I the other person will always make me happy and never hurt me?
Do I see myself giving in marriage as Jesus gave in love for us on the cross?
Am I willing to choose a suitable partner and move forward with a loving marriage, or am I always making excuses for why I should not give myself completely to someone God has put into my life?
These are but a few questions to consider. As you pray before the Crucifix, allow the Holy Spirit to inspire you with further details of your life. It is all there on the cross for you to discover.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
In most churches, the decorations are red to symbolize the blood of martyrdom. Some churches remove all decorations on Good Friday, veiling anything that can’t be removed in black or purple. Holy water is also removed from the fonts in churches on Good Friday and Holy Saturday in preparation for the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil. This removal also corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated.
The time from sundown on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Day is also known as the Triduum, which is Latin for “three days.”
Holy Week observances began in Jerusalem in the earliest days of the Church, when devout people traveled to Jerusalem at Passover to re-enact the events of the week leading up to the Resurrection.
The purpose of Holy Week is to reenact, relive, and participate in the passion of Jesus Christ.
Egeria was a Christian who traveled widely during the period of 381-385 and wrote about Christian customs and observances in Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor. She described how religious tourists to Jerusalem re-enacted the events of Holy Week. On Palm Sunday afternoon, the crowds waved palm fronds as they made a procession from the Mount of Olives into the city. Of course, the observances must have begun quite a number of years before Egeria witnessed them, or they wouldn’t have been so elaborate. It’s just that Egeria’s description is the earliest we still have. The tourists took the customs home with them. Holy week observances spread to Spain by the fifth century, to Gaul and England by the early seventh century. They didn’t spread to Rome until the 12th century.
The purpose of Holy Week is to re-enact, relive, and participate in the passion of Jesus Christ.
Holy Week is the same in the eastern and western Church, but because eastern Christians use the Julian Calendar to calculate Easter, the celebrations occur at different times. However, the following events in the week before Easter are the same, east and west, relative to the date of Easter:
• Palm Sunday (or Passion Sunday), the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.
• Holy Thursday (or Maundy Thursday), the institution of Communion and the betrayal by Judas.
• Good Friday, the arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus Christ.
• Holy Saturday, the Sabbath on which Jesus rested in the grave.
Holy Week from Scripture
Friday: Preparation Day, the Passover
The disciples arranged for the Passover meal, which took place after sundown on Thursday. We might call it Friday Eve, because by Jewish reckoning, the day begins with the previous sunset. That’s why we call 24 December “Christmas Eve.” Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover in the upper room. They ate it early, which was not uncommon. In that era, most Passover Seders did not include lamb, because most Jews lived too far away from the Temple to obtain a lamb that was kosher for Passover. Therefore the disciples, who were from Galilee, would have been accustomed to a Passover Seder without lamb. Judas left during the meal. Jesus and the remaining disciples adjourned to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed and the disciples kept falling asleep. Judas arrived to betray Jesus, who spent the rest of the night being tried by the Sanhedrin and by Pilate. The following morning, which was still the same day by Jewish reckoning, the Crucifixion significantly took place just as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple. Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:55-56, and John 19:31 all inform us that this took place on Preparation Day, which is the Jewish name for Friday. Mark and John explain that the next day was the Sabbath. Later the disciples realized that in giving them the bread and pronouncing it His body, Jesus Himself had been the Passover lamb at the Last Supper. Thus Jesus, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed for our sins on Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), and His blood protects us from the angel of death. Jesus died on the cross and was buried before sunset. So Friday was first day that Jesus lay in the tomb.
Saturday: the Jewish Sabbath
Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath. According to Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-3, and Luke 23:56-24:3, the day before the Resurrection was a Sabbath. This is the second day that Jesus lay in the tomb.
Sunday: the first day of the week, the Festival of First Fruits
On the third day, Jesus rose from the grave. It was the first day of the week and the day after the Sabbath, according to Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-3, Luke 23:56-24:3. John 20:1 says the Resurrection took place on the first day of the week. He does not explicitly say that the previous day was the Sabbath, but there is no room in his narrative for any intervening days. The first day of the week is the Jewish name for Sunday. Sunday is also the eighth day after the creation in Genesis, so Paul describes Jesus’ Resurrection as the first fruits of the new creation in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.
• Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all inform us that the Last Supper and the Crucifixion took place on Preparation Day.
• Mark and John inform us that the next day, the day after the Crucifixion, was the Sabbath.
• Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John inform us that the Resurrection took place on the first day of the week.
• Matthew, Mark, and Luke inform us that the day before the Resurrection was the Sabbath, and John heavily implies it.
Ancient Christian writers confirm this reconstruction. In The Apostolic Constitutions, Book V, Section III, it says that the Last Supper occurred on the fifth day of the week (Thursday), that Jesus was crucified on the next day (Friday), and rose on the first day (Sunday), and it explicitly states that this constitutes three days and three nights. The Apostolic Constitutions uses Roman-style midnight-to-midnight days, so this squares with the New Testament’s use of sundown-to-sundown days. It also says that Jesus gave the apostles a commandment to pass on to us, to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays; the first to commemorate His betrayal, the second to commemorate His passion on the cross.
Therefore, it is obvious that the Crucifixion took place on a Friday, that Jesus rested in the tomb on Saturday, and rose from the grave on Sunday. So, you might ask, why didn’t the gospel writers just come right out and say that it was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? The answer is that they did, for the circumstances under which they wrote. They were writing for an audience beyond Palestine, and in the Roman Empire of the first century, there was no general consensus about the names of the days of the week, the number of the current year, the names and lengths of the months, the date of the new year, or the time at which the day began. On that last point, the day began at midnight in Egypt, at sunrise in Greece, and at sunset in Palestine. So even though it is not what we are used to, the gospels are really worded in such a way as to make the dates and times comprehensible to anyone in the Roman Empire who was familiar with the Jewish Scriptures.
When you count days you get a different answer than when you subtract dates. If you go to a three-day seminar that begins on Friday, you expect it to end on Sunday, because Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are three days. However, if you subtract the date of Friday from the date of Sunday, the answer is two elapsed days. The ancients counted days instead of calculating elapsed time—in fact, Jesus Himself counted days this way in Luke 13:31-32. This is why the tradition is universal that Jesus spent three days in the tomb when He was buried on Friday and rose from the dead on Sunday. All intervals in the Jewish and Christian calendars are calculated the same way, which is why Pentecost falls on a Sunday and not on a Monday.
Easter, the principal festival of the Christian church year, celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion. The origins of Easter date to the beginnings of Christianity, and it is probably the oldest Christian observance after the Sabbath (originally observed on Saturday, later on Sunday). Later, the Sabbath subsequently came to be regarded as the weekly celebration of the Resurrection. Meanwhile, many of the cultural historians find, in the celebration of Easter, a convergence of the three traditions–Pagan, Hebrew, and Christian.
According to St. Bede, an English historian of the early eighth century, Easter owes its origin to the old Teutonic mythology. It was derived from the name Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, to whom the month of April was dedicated. The festival of Eostre was celebrated at the vernal equinox, when the day and night gets an equal share of the day.
The English name “Easter” is much newer. When the early English Christians wanted others to accept Christianity, they decided to use the name Easter for this holiday so that it would match the name of the old spring celebration. This made it more comfortable for other people to accept Christianity. But it is pointed out by some that the Easter festival, as celebrated today, is related with the Hebrew tradition, the Jewish Passover. This is being celebrated during Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew lunar year. The Jewish Passover under Moses commemorates Israel’s deliverance from about 300 years of bondage in Egypt. It was during this Passover in 30 AD Christ was crucified under the order of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate as the then Jewish high priests accused Jesus of “blasphemy”. The resurrection came three days later, on the Easter Sunday.
The early Christians, many of them being brought up in Jewish tradition regarded Easter as a new feature of the Pascha (Passover). It was observed in memory of the advent of the Messiah, as foretold by the prophets. And it is equanimous with the proclamation of the resurrection. Thus the early Christian Passover turned out to be a unitive celebration in memory of the passion-death-resurrection of Jesus. However, by the fourth century, Good Friday came to be observed as a separate occasion. And the Pascha Sunday had been devoted exclusively to the honor of the glorious resurrection.
Throughout the Christendom the Sunday of Pascha had become a holiday to honor Christ. At the same time many of the pagan spring rites came to be a part of its celebration. Maybe it was the increasing number of new converts who could not totally break free of the influence of pagan culture of their forefathers.
But despite all the influence there was an important shift in the spirit. No more glorification of the physical return of the Sun God. Instead the emphasis was shifted to the Sun of Righteousness who had won banishing the horrors of death for ever.
Feast of Easter
The Feast of Easter was well established by the second century. But there had been dispute over the exact date of the Easter observance between the Eastern and Western Churches. The East wanted to have it on a weekday because early Christians observed Passover every year on the 14th of Nisan, the month based on the lunar calendar. But, the West wanted that Easter should always be a Sunday regardless of the date. To solve this problem the emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in 325. The question of the date of Easter was one of its main concerns. The council decided that Easter should fall on Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. But fixing up the date of the Equinox was still a problem. The Alexandrians, noted for their rich knowledge in astronomical calculations were given the task. And March 21 was made out to be the perfect date for spring equinox. The dating of Easter today follows the same. Accordingly, churches in the West observe it on the first day of the full moon that occurs on or following the Spring equinox on March 21., it became a movable feast between March 21 and April 25. Still some churches in the East observe Easter according to the date of the Passover festival.
The preparation takes off as early as on the Ash Wednesday from which the period of penitence in the Lent begins. The Lent and the Holy week end on the Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection.
The Journey to Calvary
Christ’s Triumphant Entry to Jerusalem
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
The Last Supper
The Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus is Crucified
Matthew 27:27-31; Luke 23:27-46