Buona Pasqua

IMG_0156On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday

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The Lord’s descent into hell

“What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.

A reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

Prayer

Almighty, ever-living God, whose Only-begotten Son descended to the realm of the dead, and rose from there to glory, grant that your faithful people, who were buried with him in baptism, may, by his resurrection, obtain eternal life.
(We make our prayer) through our Lord.
(Through Christ our Lord.)

Prepared by Pontifical University Saint Thomas Aquinas

Jesus and the folded burial cloth

IMG_1139Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after his resurrection? The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the other grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin.

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.

Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.

Was that important? Absolutely! Is it really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, we need to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the master and servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating.

The servant would not dare touch the table until the master was finished. Now if the master was finished eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth, clean his beard, and wad up the napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m finished.”

But if the master got up from the table, folded his napkin and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”

Let us be reminded daily Jesus Christ is “Not Finished.” He is coming back for his faithful servants within his Church.

From Rev. Tim McConnell blog.

Saints Ancient and Modern ebook

SAINTS_MODERN_ANCIENT_ebook2For more than two thousand years, the Christian saints have had great influence worldwide. Now, this new, inspiring collection of biographies reveals the legendary stories, little-known facts, and inspiring beliefs of some of the best loved saints.

Full color throughout, each profile includes a biography with patronage and feast dates, along with prayers both to and about the saint.

Click on link below for the ebook.

 

SAINTS_MODERN_ANCIENT_ebook2

Easter and Passover

IMG_1149The room where The Last Supper took place.

Easter follows Passover. They arrive together every spring, like the daffodils and magnolia blossoms.  Over the years, I have come to see that Christianity’s most important day recapitulates Passover. Both holidays face head-on the daunting power of death—and both announce God’s greater power of life.—RR Reno, The Wall Street Journal

Both festivals nature and history converge with a resounding message of hope. The renewal of nature that comes with spring amplifies the promise of redemption embedded in the historical events being commemorated. To each faith community, God’s presence manifests itself in two keys, in nature and through history.

Yet, in both, the preferred medium is history, a legacy of the biblical shift to monotheism. Judaism and Christianity rest firmly on the foundation stories recounted ritually in their respective spring festivals. In Egypt, the family of Jacob had morphed into a nation welded together by the bitter experience of oppression.

Redemption by God imbued them with the national mission to create a body politic of a nobler order. Though their descendants failed, the body of religious literature which recorded their efforts and voiced their ideals would challenge humanity even as it would comfort them in their long exile. To recall the exodus in dark times nurtured the yearning for a future restoration, which is why Passover ends with the reciting of a haftarah[prophetic reading] that bristles with this-worldly messianism (Isaiah 10:32-12:6).

If Passover is largely about Egypt, Easter is largely about Passover. Its historical setting is Jerusalem at Passover, the Last Supper could well have been an embryonic seder, and Jesusis fated to become the paschal lamb. Indeed, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church calls Easter “The Christian Passover” (no. 1170) and speaks of the “Paschal mystery of Christ’s cross” (no. 57).

The good news is that the death of one has the capacity to save many. The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate affirmation of life or in the words of the Byzantine liturgy:

Christ is risen from the dead!
Dying, he conquered death;
To the dead, he has given life (no. 638).

Finally, because the message of both festivals is so central to the belief system of each faith community, it interlaces the liturgy year round. In the Haggadah we read that Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was already advanced in years before he fathomed that the exodus from Egypt should be recalled by every Jew twice daily, in the evening as well as in the morning. That is the reason for the addition at the third paragraph of the Shema [a prayer said twice daily] in which this bedrock fact is affirmed. God’s compassion obliges us to sanctify our lives.

Correspondingly, for Catholics and many Protestants the weekly sacrament of communion, reenacting the last supper, turns God’s saving grace into a lived reality.

Passover is Communal, While Easter is Individual

Still for all their commonalities, Passover and Easter diverge fundamentally. While both festivals are about delivery from a state of despair, be it slavery or sin, Passover heralds the birth of the Jewish people as a force for good in the comity of nations. In contrast, Easter assures the individual Christian life eternal. Passover summons Jews collectively into the world to repair it; Easter proffers a way out of a world beyond repair.

Passover reflects a worldview that devalues life after death and privileges the community over the individual. Easter bespeaks a religion that reverses both sets of priorities, enabling it to comfort those who had lost faith in the gods of Rome.

Passover’s Connection to Rosh Hashanah

It is well known that Passover is not the only Jewish new year, that in fact it came to share that role with Rosh Hashanah. Whereas our months are numbered from Nisan [when Passover falls], the years are counted from Tishrei [the month in which Rosh Hashanah falls]. The reason for that anomaly is the development of Rosh Hashanah, after the canonization of the Hebrew Bible, perhaps concomitantly with the emergence of Christianity, into a festival that addressed itself solely to the fate of the individual.

The Mishnah stresses that on Rosh Hashanah alone God has “all inhabitants of the world pass before Him, like flocks of sheep” (Rosh Hashanah 1:2). On the other three pilgrimage festivals, including Passover, the world is judged by God collectively. The expansion of the nameless first day of the seventh month, when loud blasts were to be sounded (Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 29:1), into a solemn day of judgment for every single member of humanity suggests a Jewish response to a society with a heightened sense for the importance of the individual.

The result, however, is not a transformation of Judaism. Its deep structure remains intact. Rosh Hashanah joins Passover; it does not replace it. While the valence of the individual is definitely elevated, the priority of the group is not devalued. Judaism continues to be animated by a spirit of communitarianism.

Likewise, the dominant orientation stays this-worldly. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not about getting into heaven. Our profusion of prayers carries aloft a modest request of God: to give us but one more year to try again, to live our life in such a manner as to make a difference. Our task is to mend the world, not flee it. The retention of two new years, one in the spring, the other in the fall, bespeaks the remarkable effort to keep polarities in balance.

Reprinted with permission of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Palm Sunday

 

Assisi-frescoes-entry-into-jerusalem-pietro_lorenzetti

Jesus enters Jerusalem and the crowds welcome him, by Pietro Lorenzetti, 1320

Mark 11:1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

John 12:12-16

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Confitemini Domino

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.

2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
“His mercy endures for ever.”

19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the Lord.

20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
he who is righteous may enter.”

21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.

22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.

23 This is the Lord‘s doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Hosannah, Lord, hosannah! *
Lord, send us now success.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; *
we bless you from the house of the Lord.

27 God is the Lord; he has shined upon us; *
form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.

28 “You are my God, and I will thank you; *
you are my God, and I will exalt you.”

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.

Visions of Mary

Some images from our book Visions of Mary.
We wanted Visions of Mary to be a book about how the Virgin Mary affects people in their everyday lives. In some countries and in many homes and businesses in the United States, images of Mary are displayed among other family photographs. For this reason, we deliberately chose not to use the great art works and paintings that have been created in her honor. Rather, we sought photographs of “everyday Marys.”. mary1

mary2mary5

mary3mary6mary4
Thank you to the many people involved!
Lisa Silvestri
Hong Digital
Dr. Joseph Sciorra
Larry Raccioppo
Dana Salvo
Diane Block
Father Eugene Carrella
Micki Cesario and husband Michael
Monastery of Saint Mina
Zeitun Coptic Outreach Center
Shrine of Akita, Japan

 

The Holy Spirit

IMG_7105The Holy Spirit was present during each stage of Christ’s life. When the angel appeared to Mary, the mother of Jesus, he declared: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).

Later on, at the baptism of Jesus, which marked the beginning of His public ministry, the Holy Spirit was present and, on this occasion, could be seen in material form. “When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him” (Mt 3:16). During His ministry, Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit and had a relationship with Him. Furthermore, He urged His disciples to receive Him in their lives.