Category Archives: Lent

The Triumph of the Cross: September 14

 

Holy sepul

Pilgims enteing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

This ancient ecumenical feast,  celebrated by Christian churches throughout the world, originated in Jerusalem at the place where Jesus died and rose again. A great church called the Anastasis ( Resurrection) or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built by the Emperor Constantine, was dedicated there on September 13, 325 AD, It’s one of Christianity’s holiest places.

Liturgies celebrated in this church, especially its Holy Week liturgy, influenced churches throughout the world. Devotional practices like the Stations of the Cross grew up around this church. Christian pilgrims brought relics and memories from here to every part of the world. Christian mystics were drawn to this church and this feast.

Holy Sepulcher - 28

Tomb of Jesus

Calvary

Calvary

Pilgrims today visit the church and the tomb of Jesus, recently renovated after sixteen centuries of wars, earthquakes, fires and natural disasters. They venerate the rock of Calvary where Jesus died on a cross. The building today is smaller and shabbier than the resplendent church Constantine built, because the original structure was largely destroyed in the 1009 by the mad Moslem caliph al-Hakim. Half of the church was hastily rebuilt by the Crusaders; the present building still bears the scars of time.

Scars of a divided Christendom can also be seen here. Various Christian groups, representing churches of the east and the west, claim age-old rights and warily guard their separate responsibilities. One understands here why Jesus prayed that ” All may be one.”

Holy Sepulcher - 04

Egyptian Coptic Christians

Seventeenth century Enlightenment scholars  expressed doubts about the authenticity of Jesus’ tomb and the place where he died, Calvary. Is this really it? Alternative spots were proposed, but scientific opinion today favors this site as the place where Jesus suffered, died and was buried.

For more on its history, see here.

And a video here.

Readings for the Triumph of the Cross

 

 

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Via Dolorosa - 17

“Do not forget the works of the Lord!” (Psalm 78, Responsorial Psalm) We remember his great works here. How can we forget them.

Jesus’ Last Sabbath

Anastasis, Fresco painting, Chora Church Collection, 11th century

Holy Saturday

Earth received a new and incorruptible seed in her womb when Jesus was laid to rest, wrapped in cloths as in the manger, and perfumed with myrhh, as the Magi anticipated. Christ’s journey from birth to death was complete. The Jewish Sabbath begins in the evening until the following day. Thus Jesus spent one full day in the heart of the earth on the Sabbath. “It is finished,” Jesus breathed at last from the Cross (John 19:30), mirroring the Creator on the Sabbath:

On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.

Genesis 2:2

Sacred silence fell upon the earth as the King slept. Unseen marvels took place as Jesus descended into Sheol “to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve” and to “proclaim the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.”

The Son took his mother and father by the hand and raised them. 

Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you. We are one and cannot be separated. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you.2

After a full Sabbath’s rest, a new day would dawn, the eighth day, for “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).3

-GMC

1 From an Ancient Homily on Holy Saturday, and Catechism of the Catholic Church 632.

2 From an Ancient Homily on Holy Saturday.

3 Catechism of the Catholic Church 349. 

Invincible Love

Good Friday

John 18:1-19:42

There is no greater proof that Jesus is the Son of God than his undying love for his enemies. In the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested, Peter’s swift reaction by cutting off the right ear of the high priest’s slave captured the all-too-human impulse toward retaliation. Jesus responded with the strength and power of God: “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:11)

Strength and power are not ideas the world associates with suffering and torture at the hands of enemies. Mighty and fearful displays, as when the earth swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram seem to demonstrate divine power more convincingly (Numbers 16:31-33).

The Son of God, in assuming flesh, accelerated human spiritual maturity to its zenith. Jesus answered Pilate’s questions with such calm assurance that the latter marveled. When Jesus’ accusers claimed that the Nazarene had to die “because he made himself the Son of God,” Pilate “became afraid” (John 19:7). He was a man immersed in political and earthly affairs. Talk of God or gods belonged to the mystifying realm of religion and the numinous. 

Pilate’s first question after that strange accusation was, “Where are you from?” (John 19:9) If Jesus was the Son of God, he would reveal an otherworldly origin. Roman mythology was pervasive enough to make Pilate afraid of spiritual forces beyond human control.

Jesus was silent, so Pilate attempted to assert and define his power over the mysterious defendant.

So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?”

John 19:10

If Jesus was a mere man, he would do everything possible to gain release. He would fear Pilate’s power like all the other criminals who have stood trial before him. Jesus’ answer took Pilate by surprise.

“You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

John 19:11

Pilate was stripped of power before this bloodied man wearing a crown of thorns and a purple cloak. Divine tranquility and unshakable dominion emanated from his whole being. 

Without comprehending Jesus’ words, Pilate instinctively knew he was innocent and tried to release him. But he was caught between Truth and Politics.

The mob saw they were not getting their way so they played their trump card: Caesar. 

“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

John 19:12

All sense of justice and right drained away at this threat to Pilate’s own position and security. He would not save Jesus at his own expense, despite his wife’s warning (Matthew 27:19). 

The whole world sought to preserve its own dominion and power by crucifying “The King of the Jews,” as the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek inscription on the cross mocked. Jesus, who bent low to wash the feet of his disciples the night before, poured forth invincible power and might by his mercy and forgiveness. Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Jews and Gentiles—the world—came under his merciful wing.

Love is stronger than death, and cannot lay buried in the ground for long. On the third day, Love Incarnate rose from the grave to live and reign forever and ever.

-GMC