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Monday, March 26, 2012

Some thoughts on Passiontide

For those of you paying attention, yesterday was the Fifth Sunday of Lent, commonly called Passion Sunday (not to be confused with Palm Sunday, on which the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is first proclaimed).  Having noticed an outbreak of liturgical minimalism and spiritual mediocrity in my part of the world with regard to some of the most beautiful and ancient traditions that the Roman Rite has to offer vis a vis Passiontide, I submit to you some reflections from that indomitable liturgical scholar, Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB.

During the preceding four weeks, we have noticed how the malice of Jesus' enemies has been gradually increasing.  His very presence irritates them; and it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long-nurtured hatred to a head.  The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright; at the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stern purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messiah being a mighty conqueror, and to the pharisee, who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make it the instrument of his own base passions.  Still, Jesus goes on working miracles; His discourses are more than ever energetic; His prophecies foretell the fall of Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone.  
The doctors of the Law should, at least, reflect upon what they hear; they should examine these wonderful works, which render such strong testimony in favor of the Son of David; and they should consult those divine prophecies which, up to the present time, have been so literally fulfilled in His person.  Alas! they themselves are about to carry them out to the very last iota.  There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and Isaiah, as having to be put upon the Messiah, which these blind men are not scheming to verify.  [And the same lamentable conduct that characterizes the Synagogue of the day] is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners, who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin.  
Neither should it surprise us, that we we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of our Jesus: the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations; for what happened in Jerusalem, happens also in every sinner's heart.  His heart, according to St. Paul, is a Calvary, where Jesus is crucified.  There is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith, knows Him whom he crucifies...
Everything around us urges us to mourn  The images of the saints, the very crucifix on our altar, are veiled from our sight.  The Church is oppressed with grief.  During the first four weeks of Lent, she compassionated her Jesus fasting in the desert; His coming sufferings and crucifixion and death are what now fill her with anguish...It is to express this deep humiliation that the Church veils the cross...Let us go back, in thought, to the sad day of the first sin, when Adam and Eve hid themselves because a guilty conscience told them they were naked...Our first parents sought to hide themselves from the sight of God.  But it will not be thus forever.
This Sunday is called Passion Sunday because the Church begins, on this day, to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought. 
We owe it to ourselves during this blessed Passiontide to seek to be drawn into the great salvific mystery of Christ's suffering and death by meditating day and night on how it was not the scribes and pharisees who crucified Our Lord, but our own sins--past, present, and future.  How great a mystery it is to contemplate how our sins--the very sins that scourged Him, that crowned Him with thorns, that placed a cross on His shoulders, that mocked and beat Him, that drove nails into His hands and feet, that pierced His heart with a lance--should be overcome by the very agony that they inflicted...that the great death that they brought about would ultimately be their very nullification!  

It's not too late for us all to make of this Passiontide an intense spiritual exercise by which we become more acutely aware of our sins, and by which we seek to hide ourselves from the gaze of Almighty God, that, in being truly repentant and seeking forgiveness, we might be called to that Heavenly Banquet wherein we may look upon the face of God and bask in the rays of His ineffable glory at Christ's Resurrection, and in the life to come!

(Cynical re-cap: Stop being pansies.  Veil your images.  Repent.  Acknowledge your sins.  Confess them. Gain Eternal Life.)

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