Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Resurrection of Christ

The Resurrection of Christ
Originally uploaded by Fr. Peter.
The Resurrection of Christ

Hendrick van den Broeck (1519-1597)
Sistine Chapel
Vatican Museum

Holy Saturday

Descent of Christ into Limbo
Originally uploaded by Fr. Peter.
Descent of Christ into Limbo

Duccio di Boninsegna 1255-1318
Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana, Siena

On Holy Saturday we commemorate the day Christ’s body lay in the tomb. The Church also contemplates the mystery, in the Apostle's Creed, "He descended into Hell.”

The Church makes a distinction between the Hell of the damned and the place of the dead. Christ did not release the souls of the damned. The suffering of the souls condemned to the Hell of the damned never ends. Christ released the righteous people who were still in need of a Savior in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

His body was still in the sleep of death, but his Spirit was active, ransoming souls from sin and death. Death was defeated from within. By his death on the cross Christ gave us all hope of unending life. It is a day of suspension between death and life, but ultimately life is victorious.

On Holy Saturday the Church is still in mourning. It should be quiet day, yet our mourning is tempered by our faith in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead that we begin to celebrate at the Easter Vigil.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Christ's Seven Last Words


Luke 23:33-34 -- When they came to the place called "The Skull," they nailed Jesus to the cross there, and the two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, "Forgive them, Father! They know not what they do."

A Christian should always try to see what is best in people. We can never judge peoples motives. God alone can do that. Christ forgave those who nailed him to the cross. Is there someone in our life that we refuse to forgive?


Luke 23:39-43 -- One of the criminals hanging there threw insults at him: "Aren't you the messiah? Save yourself and us!" The other one, however, rebuked him, saying: "Don't you fear God? Here we are all under the same sentence. Ours, however, is only right, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong." And he said to Jesus, "Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!" Jesus said to him, "I tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me."

The repentant thief is the only person in the Gospels who Jesus guarantees paradise. The keys that opened the door to paradise for him were humility. He knew he was a sinner and admitted it. He was repentant. He was truly sorry for what he had done and if possible would have made amends. He placed his faith in Christ, when there seemed to be no earthly reason to do so, since Jesus was dying next to him on the cross. But he reasoned that the one who raised Lazarus from the dead could give him the gift of eternal life.


John 19:25-27 -- Standing close to jesus' cross were his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that time the disciple took her to live in his home.

Jesus is clearly referring to John the Apostle when he says "Behold your son" to Mary. John represents the whole Church. Christ's final gift from the cross was the gift of his mother. Simeon's prochecy in Luke 2, 34-35 was fulfilled at the foot of the cross: "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

We shouldn't hesitate to ask for Mary's intercession. It takes nothing away from Christ's unique mediating role with the Father. Our prayers to Mary only draws us closer to her Divine Son.


Mark 15: 33-34 -- And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Elo-i, elo-i, lama sabach-thani?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

While Christ understood the pangs of despair in his human nature he was at the same time united to His Father in heaven. Christ is actually invoking Psalm 22 that begin with the words expressing the anguish Christ felt at that moment but end in these words of hope and trust:

For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.

I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.

The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!"

All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before you.

For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.

All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage.

And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you.

The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.


John 19:28 -- After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said, to fulfill the scripture, "I thirst."

Mother Teresa reminds us that Christ thirsted not simply for water but for souls. He thirts for us to return his love. He loved us so much that he died for our sakes. He desires us to make sacrifices for God and our neighbor, to repent of our sins and live holy lives.


John 19:29-30 -- A bowl was there, full of cheap wine mixed with vinegar, so a sponge was soaked in it, put on hyssop and lifted up to his lips. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished."

His work was complete. He remained faithful to his mission. While it seemed like Satan had triumphed, in reality, the opposite was true. His death was sufficient to redeem every human being that had ever or would ever exist. Christ saved us not by giving us a new philosophy, but by his death on the cross, that paid the price for our sins that we might have eternal life. In order to accept this gift we must place our faith in him and live as he taught us.


Luke 23:46 -- Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.

With absolute trust he commends himself to the Father. His life was a gift to the Father for the salvation of souls. If we place our faith in Him and trust in God's Providence God can accomplish great things through us.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

St. Ephraim on the Eucharist

St. Ephraim was one of the great authors of the Syrian Church. Because of his beautiful writings, he is sometimes referred to as the 'lyre of the Holy Spirit'. He studied under James, Bishop of Nisbis. In 338 A.D. he aspired to the diaconate and remained a deacon for the remainder of his life.

"Our Lord Jesus took in His hands what in the beginning was only bread; and He blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy in the name of the Father and in the name of the Spirit; and He broke it and in His gracious kindness He distributed it to all His disciples one by one. He called the bread His living Body, and did Himself fill it with Himself and the Spirit.,

And extending His hand, He gave them the Bread which His right hand had made holy: 'Take, all of you eat of this; which My word has made holy. Do not now regard as bread that which I have given you; but take, eat this Bread, and do not scatter the crumbs; for what I have called My Body, that it is indeed. One particle from its crumbs is able to sanctify thousands and thousands, and is sufficient to afford life to those who eat of it. Take, eat, entertaining no doubt of faith, because this is My Body, and whoever eats it in belief eats in it Fire and Spirit. But if any doubter eat of it, for him it will be only bread. And whoever eats in belief the Bread made holy in My name, if he be pure, he will be preserved in his purity; and if he be a sinner, he will be forgiven.' But if anyone despise it or reject it or treat it with ignominy, it may be taken as certainty that he treats with ignominy the Son, who called it and actually made it to be His Body.",

-"Homilies" 4,4 ca.. 350 A.D.,

"After the disciples had eaten the new and holy Bread, and when they understood by faith that they had eaten of Christ's body, Christ went on to explain and to give them the whole Sacrament. He took and mixed a cup of wine. The He blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy, declaring that it was His own Blood, which was about to be poured out. ...Christ commanded them to drink, and He explained to them that the cup which they were drinking was His own Blood: 'This is truly My Blood, which is shed for all of you. Take, all of you, drink of this, because it is a new covenant in My Blood, As you have seen Me do, do you also in My memory. Whenever you are gathered together in My name in Churches everywhere, do what I have done, in memory of Me. Eat My Body, and drink My Blood, a covenant new and old.",

-"Homilies" 4,6 ca. 350 A.D.,

The flames of his love burst forth
and Jesus rose
from the place where he was reclining
and began to fulfill the mysteries and
celebrate the true Passover….

On the night of that paschal feast
he laid this law on his Church;
it was to call to mind the Lamb,
the Son of God,
who before he was killed for us,
gave us his body and blood….

O light-filled night
In which the mysteries were revealed,
the seal set to the covenant
made long before,
the church of the Gentiles

Blessed the night, blessed the hour when the supper was hallowed.

St. Ephraim, Eucharistic Hymn, C. 370 A.D.

Da Vinci's Last Supper

Da Vinci's Last Supper
Originally uploaded by Fr. Peter.
The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

Giotto's Depiction of the Betrayal of Judas

Christ Washed the Feet of Judas

George Marion McClellan was an African-American poet and a minister. He was born in Belfast, Tennessee in 1860 and lived in Louisville, Kentucky. He died in 1934.

Below is his poem "The Feet of Judas":

CHRIST washed the feet of Judas!
The dark and evil passions of his soul,
His secret plot, and sordidness complete,
His hate, his purposing, Christ knew the whole,
And still in love he stooped and washed his feet.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
Yet all his lurking sin was bare to him,
His bargain with the priest, and more than this,
In Olivet, beneath the moonlight dim,
Aforehand knew and felt his treacherous kiss.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And so ineffable his love 'twas meet,
That pity fill his great forgiving heart,
And tenderly to wash the traitor's feet,
Who in his Lord had basely sold his part.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And thus a girded servant, self-abased,
Taught that no wrong this side the gate of heaven
Was ever too great to wholly be effaced,
And though unasked, in spirit be forgiven.

And so if we have ever felt the wrong
Of trampled rights, of caste, it matters not,
What e'er the soul has felt or suffered long,
Oh, heart! this one thing should not be forgot:
Christ washed the feet of Judas.

"The Feet of Judas" is reprinted from The Book of American Negro Poetry. Ed. James Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Spy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday is the term traditionally used to describe the Wednesday during Holy Week. It is thought to be the day when Judas decided to betray Christ. The Gospel for this day tells us the story of the betrayal of Judas.

In the past few days there has been a story in the news of a newly discovered manuscript of the “Gospel of Judas”. The manuscript was actually found in the seventies, and a new translation of it was recently released. Despite the recent hype, scholars actually have long known about the "Gospel" of Judas. The early Christians, such as St. Irenaeus of Lyons, were familiar with the Gospel of Judas and rejected it as untrue. It was written by a heretical sect called the Gnostics who believed in enlightenment and salvation through secret knowledge. St. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John, one of the twelve original Apostles.

Why trust the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and not the non-canonical gospels that arouse curiosity such as Judas? As Christians we ultimately believe that the Holy Spirit guided the early Church to distinguish between what was true and what was false, what we needed to know for our salvation. The Gospel of Judas was actually written in the second century, long after the death of Judas. The canonical Gospels were written in the first century, closer to the time of Christ. They were also written by eye-witnesses to the events they report on.