Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Octave

How to adequately celebrate the grandeur of the Resurrection of Our Lord? The Church gives us eight days, an octave. Eight is the number of extravagant fullness, overabundance. For seven is fullness- a whole week, a seemingly perfect combination of three and four; three the heavenly number for the Trinity plus four the number of things earthly- the seasons, the classical elements. But eight is one more, the number of beyondness, infinity, life in God. In one festive hymn we call the Day of Resurrection, "the first and eighth of days." Alleluia!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Resurrected Love


Love doesn’t forget; love remembers; and the memory of Jesus in us throbs with the power of his Word and the promise of his Resurrection. ‘Do not forget what I have done for you,’ Jesus says to us incessantly. When we are overwhelmed by sorrows of any kind, or are perhaps suffering the pangs of a devouring guilt that can tempt us to despair; when it seems that our life has reached a dead-end either through the treachery of others or through our own grave errors: then our only salvation is to believe with all our might in the power of Christ’s creative anticipation, that is, in the sovereign ability Christ demonstrated at the Last Supper and on the Cross to take an evil deed that will lead to his own crucifixion and providentially transform it into an event of Resurrection.
  Christ’s unconditional handing-over of himself to us in advance of anything we might do ought to give us the certainty that no sin we commit can defeat the Mercy of God, and that no wound that is inflicted by others on us can surpass the power to heal of the divine Physician. “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus commanded us (Jn 13:34). As Christians we must strive to love as we have been loved, which is with all the tenderness of God’s whole Heart. “The measure of love,” says St. Bernard, “is to love without measure.”

Deesis, mosaic, detail, 13th-century, Hagia Sophia, Meditation by Father Simeon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

  Up to now we have been comforted by the luminous aspects of the Paschal Mystery. But we must pursue our meditation into the dark side of the Redemption, because this is a darkness we all carry within us. We must glimpse into the abyss of suffering into which our Lord Jesus was plunged in the hours that led him into the desolation of abandonment by the Father and, ultimately, to a horrendous death.  In the days of his Passion, Jesus, obeying the will of the Father, willingly and even joyously (Heb 12:2) entered into what Paul calls “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thes 2:7). Fully aware of what was involved, and with full consent of heart and will, Jesus handed himself over into the hands of sinners, to be treated by them as they pleased. 
  But who are these “sinners” into whose hands Jesus so willingly hands himself? Ourselves, of course. And yet Jesus sits at our table and eats with us, scandalizing the Pharisees. He surrenders himself into our sinful hands just as literally as the fact that we today receive his Body as bread in our hands and drink his outpoured Blood as wine. ‘When you did not have mercy on one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not have mercy on me’, the all-knowing King says to us at the Last Judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46). How could we forget this painful truth? Jesus knew who we were; he knew what we would do with him; and yet he still surrendered himself totally into our hands. If we are ever tempted to view Jesus’ Passion and Death as merely the regrettable failure of an otherwise admirable mission, then we should read the Gospels carefully again. There we would see clearly the dazzling light of an ardent love, a light that blinds our natural logic with the divine truth that precisely surrendering into the hands of sinners who he knew would kill him was the strategy of divine love to redeem the world. “For our sake [the Father] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son while we were [his] enemies” (Rom 5:10). What an incredible exchange!
  Don’t such declarations make us gasp? Consider the depth of the mystery of divine love: On the one hand, God cannot be God without being from all eternity the Father of his only Son, his beloved Jesus Christ. At the very same time, however, God did not love the One by whose sonship he is God more than us, his creatures! Paul’s words above declare this wonderful, terrible truth: God did not spare his own Son but made him to be sin for our sake. For us to be liberated from the death of sin, the Father deemed it necessary that his innocent Son should become sin, that which is most abhorrent to God! Christ, the All-Holy One, became sin by taking up into his person the full consequence of our sins, namely, death. The very God who would not allow Abraham to kill his beloved son Isaac “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all”! The all-powerful King exchanged his dignity for that of the condemned slave. The greatest truths are always unbelievable, and that’s precisely why we have to believe them.
Image from the series of prints known as the Miserere by Georges Rouault (1871-1958). Meditation by Father Simeon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday

  
  The most striking aspect of Jesus’ actions in the text of the Mass is what can be called Jesus’ creative anticipation of his death. Christ sacramentally institutes in the present an action that overtakes in time the destructive historical action of his murder that hasn’t yet occurred, while at the same time giving to it a startling redemptive meaning. Thus, the interior significance and effects of the future action of betrayal are radically changed by divine intervention before the betrayal occurs. The malice of man is overtaken by the goodness of God. Love swallows up hatred, even though the lover dies of its poisoning. A hate-filled enemy—including both his evil intentions and his murderous deed—is embraced as brother and friend.   
  In the Sacrament, Jesus’ death becomes the source of our life because the power of his love anticipates the mangling of his body and the shedding of his blood, and it transforms their vital meaning and effect: from an act of violent hatred it is transformed into the execution of a sacrifice and the preparation of its victim as food. At a moment when one would expect the victim to be overwhelmed with fear, such anticipation is instead a forceful and deliberate initiative by the One in whom the universe was first created and which the humiliated Word is now re-creating through his Passion. Jesus takes bread, pronounces a thanksgiving that changes it substantially into his Body, breaks it and distributes it for eating; takes wine, blesses it and transforms it into his Blood, and then pours it out to be drunk. This is Jesus’ way of guaranteeing that the Substance of his being will not fall on the Cross into a bottomless abyss as a result of human violence, but rather that that sacred Substance will be made available to all as a source of new life and joy: “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (Jn 10:17-18). This power and choice of Jesus to lay down his life contains the whole secret of his love.
  At the very moment when he is going to allow himself to be handed over to the forces of darkness, Jesus shows himself to be more than ever the sovereign Lord of creation and of history: of creation, because he takes the elements of bread and wine and re-creates them, transforming them into his Body and Blood; of history, because he takes the impending evil deed of his betrayal and transforms it already before it occurs into the best possible occasion for him to surrender his person to us, his betrayers, out of love, as the Bridegroom of the Church, with the total fidelity, dedication and passionate love that befits a royal bridegroom.

The Last Supper, Ugolino da Siena (Italian, Sienese, active 1315–30s), Tempera on panel; Overall 15 x 22 1/4 in. (38.1 x 56.5 cm), painted surface 13 1/2 x 20 3/4 in. Used with permission.   Meditation by Father Simeon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Multiplying Mercy

  The Gospel everywhere urges us to allow the irresistible tenderness of Christ to invade our person and take over our every thought, feeling and action. Realistically, however, none of us can by nature be as selfless as Christ, the Good Samaritan who has only to glance at a wounded or needy person to shudder with mercy. The problem is not so much that of willfully imposing on ourselves a strict consistency between faith and action; it is more a matter of allowing the power of the Christ, who has given himself to me with love, to have its full effect in my person, rather like a pregnant mother-to-be who allows the child to grow in her womb and simply nourishes it by offering it her whole being and doing nothing to harm it. This is not our work, but the work of God in us. Christ in us is never a mere static object that we dispose of; he is the Subject acting in my soul, the risen Lord who lives in me and strengthens me, the true Protagonist of my life and personal history.

Photograph by Charles O'Connor. Meditation by Father Simeon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Holy Week Schedule

As always during this most holy week, we invite our friends and neighbors to join us at prayer.  

Palm Sunday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40 followed by Solemn Mass
with blest palms distributed following the Liturgy
Vespers & Benediction at 5:10
Compline at 7:40

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
our normal daily schedule with
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6 followed by Mass
Vespers at 5:40
Compline at 7:40

Holy Thursday
Vigils at 3:30 amLauds at 6:40
The Beginning of the Sacred Triduum withThe Solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper at 4
followed by procession to the Altar of ReposeCompline at 7:40

Good Friday
Vigils at 4:30 am
Lauds at 7:40
Solemn Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at 3
Compline at 7:40

Holy Saturday
Vigils at 3:30 am
Lauds at 6:40
Vespers at 5:40
Compline omitted

Easter Sunday
Solemn Paschal Vigil Mass at 3 am
Lauds at 7:30
Easter Day Mass at 11
Vespers & Benediction at 5:10
Compline at 7:40

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Wounds

In a special prayer for these last days of Lent, we pray, "By your sacred wounds, purify our senses..." Indeed, may the the Lord Jesus fill us with himself, so that all else is eclipsed by his brightness.