Happy Mother’s Day

large
Far Angelico, The Madonna of Humility (ca. 1430)

My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Todays Readings, Friday, May 9

IMG_0234Reading 1, Acts 13:26-33

26 ‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you godfearers, this message of salvation is meant for you.

27 What the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did, though they did not realise it, was in fact to fulfil the prophecies read on every Sabbath.

28 Though they found nothing to justify his execution, they condemned him and asked Pilate to have him put to death.

29 When they had carried out everything that scripture foretells about him they took him down from the tree and buried him in a tomb.

30 But God raised him from the dead,

31 and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem: and it is these same companions of his who are now his witnesses before our people.

32 ‘We have come here to tell you the good news that the promise made to our ancestors has come about.

33 God has fulfilled it to their children by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the psalms: You are my son: today I have fathered you.

 

Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 2:6-7, 8-9, 10-11

6 ‘I myself have anointed my king on Zion my holy mountain.’

7 I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh: He said to me, ‘You are my son, today have I fathered you.

8 Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright, the whole wide world as your possession.

9 With an iron sceptre you will break them, shatter them like so many pots.’

10 So now, you kings, come to your senses, you earthly rulers, learn your lesson!

11 In fear be submissive to Yahweh;

Gospel, John 14:1-6

1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me.

2 In my Father’s house there are many places to live in; otherwise I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you,

3 and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you to myself, so that you may be with me where I am.

4 You know the way to the place where I am going.

5 Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

6 Jesus said: I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Thursday, May 7, readings

IMG_0197

Reading 1, Acts 13:13-25

13 Paul and his companions went by sea from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to go back to Jerusalem.

14 The others carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the Sabbath and took their seats.

15 After the passages from the Law and the Prophets had been read, the presidents of the synagogue sent them a message, ‘Brothers, if you would like to address some words of encouragement to the congregation, please do so.’

16 Paul stood up, raised his hand for silence and began to speak: ‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen!

17 The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors and made our people great when they were living in Egypt, a land not their own; then by divine power he led them out

18 and for about forty years took care of them in the desert.

19 When he had destroyed seven nations in Canaan, he put them in possession of their land

20 for about four hundred and fifty years. After this he gave them judges, down to the prophet Samuel.

21 Then they demanded a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. After forty years,

22 he deposed him and raised up David to be king, whom he attested in these words, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will perform my entire will.”

23 To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour,

24 whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel.

25 Before John ended his course he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; there is someone coming after me whose sandal I am not fit to undo.”

 

Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 89:2-3, 21-22, 25, 27

2 for you have said: love is built to last for ever, you have fixed your constancy firm in the heavens.

3 ‘I have made a covenant with my Chosen One, sworn an oath to my servant David:

21 My hand will always be with him, my arm will make him strong.

22 ‘No enemy will be able to outwit him, no wicked man overcome him;

25 I shall establish his power over the sea, his dominion over the rivers.

27 So I shall make him my first-born, the highest of earthly kings.

Gospel, John 13:16-20

16 ‘In all truth I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent him.

17 ‘Now that you know this, blessed are you if you behave accordingly.

18 I am not speaking about all of you: I know the ones I have chosen; but what scripture says must be fulfilled: ‘He who shares my table takes advantage of me.

19 I tell you this now, before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe that I am He.

20 In all truth I tell you, whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me.’

 

Mary, The Mother of Jesus

What do we really know about the woman we call Mother of God and Mother of the Church, the first of all the saints, the model believer? What do contemporary Scripture studies, archaeological research and analysis of the literature of her time reveal to us about Mary? I invite the reader to reflect with me on the “historical Mary,” whose life is so intertwined with the mystery of Jesus. Focusing on Mary’s Jewish roots, writers like Raymond E. Brown, S.S., in The Birth of the Messiah, John P. Meier in A Marginal Jew and Elizabeth A. Johnson in Truly Our Sister have carefully examined the religious, economic, cultural and political circumstances of her daily life. The scene they reconstruct is quite different from the idyllic portraits of medieval artists and the serene rhapsodies of musicians and poets.

Mary was actually called Miriam, after the sister of Moses. Most likely she was born in Nazareth, a tiny Galilean town of about 1,600 people, during the reign of Herod the Great, a violent puppet-king propped up by Roman military might. Nazareth was of little consequence for most Jews: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). It is never mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, nor in the Talmud. Mary spoke Aramaic, with a Galilean accent (see Matt 26:73), but she also had contact with a multilingual world. She heard Latin as it slipped from the tongues of Roman soldiers, Greek as it was used in commerce and educated circles and Hebrew as the Torah was proclaimed in the synagogue.

She belonged to the peasant class, which eked out its living through agriculture and small commercial ventures like carpentry, the profession of both Joseph and Jesus. This group made up 90 percent of the population and bore the burden of supporting the state and the small privileged class. Their life was grinding, with a triple tax burden: to Rome, to Herod the Great and to the temple (to which, traditionally, they owed 10 percent of the harvest). Artisans, who made up about 5 percent of the population, had an even lower median income than those who worked the land full time. Consequently, in order to have a steady supply of food, they usually combined their craft with farming.

The picture of the Holy Family as a tiny group of three living in a tranquil, monastic-like carpenter’s shop is highly improbable. Like most people at that time, they probably lived in an extended family unit, where three or four houses of one or two rooms each were built around an open courtyard, in which relatives shared an oven, a cistern and a millstone for grinding grain, and where domestic animals also lived. Like women in many parts of the world today, Mary most likely spent, on the average, 10 hours a day on domestic chores like carrying water from a nearby well or stream, gathering wood for the fire, cooking meals and washing utensils and clothes.

Who were the members of this extended household? Mark’s Gospel speaks of Jesus, “the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here among us?” (Mark 6:3). Were these “brothers and sisters” children of Jesus’ aunt (see John 19:25) and therefore cousins? Were they Joseph’s children by a previous marriage? We do not know their precise relationship to Jesus and Mary, but it is probable that they all lived in close proximity within the same compound.

In Palestine at that time, women ordinarily married at about 13 years of age in order to maximize childbearing and to guarantee their virginity, so it is likely that Mary’s espousal to Joseph (Matt 1:18) and the birth of Jesus occurred when she was very young. Luke indicates that Mary gave birth to Jesus during a census required by the Romans around 6 B.C., in a cave or stall where animals were stabled. A feeding trough served as his crib, as today poor refugees use cardboard boxes and other homemade artifacts as makeshift beds for newborn infants.

It would be a mistake to think of Mary as fragile, even at 13. As a peasant woman capable of walking the hill country of Judea while pregnant, of giving birth in a stable, of making a four- or five-day journey on foot to Jerusalem once a year or so, of sleeping in the open country like other pilgrims and of engaging in daily hard labor at home, she probably had a robust physique in youth and even in her later years. We also err when we picture her as Fra Lippo Lippi’s gorgeously dressed, blue-eyed, blond-haired Madonna, who often adorns Christmas cards. Whether she was beautiful or not, she would have had features like those of Jewish and Palestinian women today, most likely with dark hair and dark eyes.

It is doubtful that she knew how to read or write, since literacy was extremely rare among women of the time. The culture was highly oral, with public reading of the Scriptures, the telling of stories, the recitation of poems and the singing of songs.

A Jewish culture permeated Mary’s life. One might legitimately ask: Did she keep a kosher kitchen? Was there a mezuzah on the doorpost of her family’s modest home in Nazareth?

Her husband, Joseph, seems to have died before Jesus’ public ministry began. We know that Mary herself, however, lived through the time of that ministry (Mark 3:31, John 2:1-12). Her separation from Jesus as he went out to preach was undoubtedly painful for her. In a passage that has always embarrassed Mariologists, Mark tells us that Jesus’ family thought him mad (Mark 3:21); but what mother, upon seeing her son challenge Roman authority rather dauntlessly (this often meant death), might not have said to him, “Are you crazy?”

John tells us that Mary was present at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25-27), though the other evangelists are silent about this. At that time she was probably close to 50 years old, well beyond the age at which most women in that era died. She lived on at least into the early days of the church. Luke states that she was in the upper room in Jerusalem with the 11 remaining apostles “who devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women…and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). The lovely paintings and icons of Pentecost that picture the Spirit descending on Mary and the 11 apostles hardly do justice to Luke’s text, which indicates that she was there with a community of 120 persons.

After Pentecost, Mary disappears from history. The rest of her life is shrouded in legend. As Elizabeth Johnson points out, an active imagination easily wonders: What memories, hopes and strategies did she share with the men and women of the new, Spirit-filled Jerusalem community? Did she live on peacefully in Jerusalem as an old woman, revered as the mother of the Messiah? Was she quiet or outspoken? Did others come to her for advice? Did she express her views about the inclusion of the Gentiles? We do not know. It would seem that she died as a member of the Jerusalem community, though a later tradition portrays her as moving to Ephesus in the company of the apostle John.

Why focus on the historical Mary in Advent? There are three reasons. First, her history brings her nearer to us. While there is an alluring quality to the gorgeous Madonnas depicted by medieval artists, this first-century Jewish woman living in a peasant village was much more like billions of people today than the women in those beautiful paintings. Though her culture was quite different from that of our 21st-century post-industrial society, it was not unlike that of women in thousands of villages as they exist today in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Her daily life and labor were hard. With Joseph, she raised Jesus in oppressive circumstances, struggling to pay the taxes by which the rich became richer at the expense of the poor. As with the vast majority of people in world history, most of Mary’s difficult life went unrecorded.

Second, her holiness lies in persistent, faithful listening to God’s word. Even though in canonizing saints the church has customarily emphasized martyrdom, asceticism, renunciation of family and worldly possessions, or lifelong dedication to the poor, today we recognize more and more that holiness consists mainly in persevering fidelity in the midst of everyday life. This is what the “historical Mary” exemplifies. As events unfolded around her, often to her surprise, she had to figure out continually what God was asking of her. She looked for the word of God in people and events, listened to that word, pondered it and then acted on it. She doubtless repeated again and again what she said to Gabriel, “Be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Day by day she lived a “pilgrimage of faith,” to use the words of Vatican II. She found energy in her trust in the God of Israel and in her solidarity with the growing community of Christians who experienced the promise of life in the death and resurrection of her son.

Third, today we recognize Mary’s Magnificat as a rousing freedom song of the poor. Mary, the lead singer, epitomizes the lowly of Israel, those marginalized by society, for whom there is “no room in the inn” (Luke 2:7). God is her only hope, and she sings the divine praises with exuberant confidence. While it may be difficult to imagine this revolutionary hymn coming from the mouth of a Madonna painted by Caravaggio, it is easy to envision it issuing from the lips of the historical Mary. Galilee was the spawning ground for first-century revolts against a repressive occupying power and its taxes. The Christians of Jerusalem, who with Mary were the nucleus of the post-resurrection church, suffered from real hunger and poverty (see Gal 2:10; 1 Cor 16:1-4; Rom 15:25-26). With the members of this community, Mary believed that God can turn the world upside down; that the last are first and the first last; the humble are exalted, the exalted humbled; those who save their life lose it, those who lose their life save it; those who mourn will rejoice, those who laugh will cry; the mighty are cast down from their thrones, the lowly lifted up. She and they were convinced that in God’s kingdom the poor are first, and the prostitutes, publicans and outcasts of society eat at the table of the Lord.

The historical Mary experienced poverty, oppression, violence and the execution of her son. Her faith is deeply rooted in that context. Before the omnipotent God, she recognizes her own “lowly estate.” She is not among the world’s powerful. She is simply God’s “maidservant.” But she believes that nothing is impossible for God. In the Magnificat she sings confidently that God rescues life from death, joy from sorrow, light from darkness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian-martyr executed by the Nazis, spoke these words in a sermon during Advent 1933:

The song of Mary is the oldest Advent hymn. It is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings; this is that passionate, surrendered, proud, enthusiastic Mary who speaks out here. This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of our Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, about the power of God and the powerlessness of humankind.

Christians throughout the world will join with Mary in singing her vibrant song this Advent. May it be both praise of God’s power and a prophecy of a world to come.

The Canticle of Mary

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
Luke 1:46-55

The Women around Jesus

joachim and ann

Women In Ancient Christianity: The New Discoveries

Scholar Karen King examines the evidence concerning women’s important place in early Christianity. She draws a surprising new portrait of Mary Magdalene and outlines the stories of previously unknown early Christian women.

by Karen L. King

Karen L. King is Professor of New Testament Studies and the History of Ancient Christianity at Harvard University in the Divinity School. She has published widely in the areas of Gnosticism, ancient Christianity, and Women’s Studies.

In the last twenty years, the history of women in ancient Christianity has been almost completely revised. As women historians entered the field in record numbers, they brought with them new questions, developed new methods, and sought for evidence of women’s presence in neglected texts and exciting new findings. For example, only a few names of women were widely known: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene, his disciple and the first witness to the resurrection; Mary and Martha, the sisters who offered him hospitality in Bethany. Now we are learning more of the many women who contributed to the formation of Christianity in its earliest years.

Perhaps most surprising, however, is that the stories of women we thought we knew well are changing in dramatic ways. Chief among these is Mary Magdalene, a woman infamous in Western Christianity as an adulteress and repentant whore. Discoveries of new texts from the dry sands of Egypt, along with sharpened critical insight, have now proven that this portrait of Mary is entirely inaccurate. She was indeed an influential figure, but as a prominent disciple and leader of one wing of the early Christian movement that promoted women’s leadership.

MARY MAGDALENE: A TRUER PORTRAIT

Later texts support these early portraits of women, both in exemplifying their prominence and confirming their leadership roles (Acts 17:4, 12). Certainly the most prominent among these in the ancient church was Mary Magdalene. A series of spectacular 19th and 20th century discoveries of Christian texts in Egypt dating to the second and third century have yielded a treasury of new information. It was already known from the New Testament gospels that Mary was a Jewish woman who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently of independent means, she accompanied Jesus during his ministry and supported him out of her own resources (Mark 15:40-41; Matthew 27:55-56; Luke 8:1-3; John 19:25).

Although other information about her is more fantastic, she is repeatedly portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement.( Mark 16:1-9; Matthew 28:1-10; Luke24:1-10; John 20:1, 11-18; Gospel of Peter ). In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus gives her special teaching and commissions her as an apostle to the apostles to bring them the good news. She obeys and is thus the first to announce the resurrection and to play the role of an apostle, although the term is not specifically used of her. Later tradition, however, will herald her as “the apostle to the apostles.” The strength of this literary tradition makes it possible to suggest that historically Mary was a prophetic visionary and leader within one sector of the early Christian movement after the death of Jesus.

The newly discovered Egyptian writings elaborate this portrait of Mary as a favored disciple. Her role as “apostle to the apostles” is frequently explored, especially in considering her faith in contrast to that of the male disciples who refuse to believe her testimony. She is most often portrayed in texts that claim to record dialogues of Jesus with his disciples, both before and after the resurrection. In the Dialogue of the Savior, for example, Mary is named along with Judas (Thomas) and Matthew in the course of an extended dialogue with Jesus. During the discussion, Mary addresses several questions to the Savior as a representative of the disciples as a group. She thus appears as a prominent member of the disciple group and is the only woman named. Moreover, in response to a particularly insightful question, the Lord says of her, “´You make clear the abundance of the revealer!'” (140.17-19). At another point, after Mary has spoken, the narrator states, “She uttered this as a woman who had understood completely”(139.11-13). These affirmations make it clear that Mary is to be counted among the disciples who fully comprehended the Lord’s teaching (142.11-13).

In another text, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, Mary also plays a clear role among those whom Jesus teaches. She is one of the seven women and twelve men gathered to hear the Savior after the resurrection, but before his ascension. Of these only five are named and speak, including Mary. At the end of his discourse, he tells them, “I have given you authority over all things as children of light,” and they go forth in joy to preach the gospel. Here again Mary is included among those special disciples to whom Jesus entrusted his most elevated teaching, and she takes a role in the preaching of the gospel.

In the Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is mentioned as one of three Marys “who always walked with the Lord” and as his companion (59.6-11). The work also says that Lord loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often (63.34-36). The importance of this portrayal is that yet again the work affirms the special relationship of Mary Magdalene to Jesus based on her spiritual perfection.

In the Pistis Sophia, Mary again is preeminent among the disciples, especially in the first three of the four books. She asks more questions than all the rest of the disciples together, and the Savior acknowledges that: “Your heart is directed to the Kingdom of Heaven more than all your brothers” (26:17-20). Indeed, Mary steps in when the other disciples are despairing in order to intercede for them to the Savior (218:10-219:2). Her complete spiritual comprehension is repeatedly stressed.

She is, however, most prominent in the early second century Gospel of Mary, which is ascribed pseudonymously to her. More than any other early Christian text, the Gospel of Mary presents an unflinchingly favorable portrait of Mary Magdalene as a woman leader among the disciples. The Lord himself says she is blessed for not wavering when he appears to her in a vision. When all the other disciples are weeping and frightened, she alone remains steadfast in her faith because she has grasped and appropriated the salvation offered in Jesus’ teachings. Mary models the ideal disciple: she steps into the role of the Savior at his departure, comforts, and instructs the other disciples. Peter asks her to tell any words of the Savior which she might know but that the other disciples have not heard. His request acknowledges that Mary was preeminent among women in Jesus’ esteem, and the question itself suggests that Jesus gave her private instruction. Mary agrees and gives an account of “secret” teaching she received from the Lord in a vision. The vision is given in the form of a dialogue between the Lord and Mary; it is an extensive account that takes up seven out of the eighteen pages of the work. At the conclusion of the work, Levi confirms that indeed the Saviour loved her more than the rest of the disciples (18.14-15). While her teachings do not go unchallenged, in the end the Gospel of Mary affirms both the truth of her teachings and her authority to teach the male disciples. She is portrayed as a prophetic visionary and as a leader among the disciples.

From pbs.org

 

 

 

The Blessed Mother

beato-fra-angelico_-coronazione-delle-vergine_-tempera-on-wood_1435_galleria-degli-uffizi-florence-italyBeato Fra Angelico, Coronazione delle Vergine | Tempera on wood, 1435 | Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Mount Carmel, in what is today northern Israel, has always been a place rich in mystical tradition. The word hakkarmel means “the garden” in Hebrew, and true to its title, there is a remarkable profusion of plants and wildflowers on this mountain. It is considered a natural paradise and a sacred place, and in biblical times it was forbidden to disturb any of the natural life on it. Those who wanted to ascend the mountain for meditation lived in caves so as not to intrude on the landscape with unnatural structures. In about 860 b.c., the prophet Elijah (also known as Elias) arrived on this holy mountain to begin a life of contemplation and prayer. The First Book of Kings is filled with tales of wonders he performed and prophesies he gave. In his prophetic visions on Mount Carmel, Elijah became aware of the coming of the mother of the Messiah. He and his followers mystically dedicated themselves to her, setting an example as the first monks. The descendants of these ancient contemplatives were among the first to accept the teachings of Christ and to be baptized by His apostles. Upon meeting Mary after Christ’s Ascension, they were so overcome by her sanctity that they returned to the mountain to build a chapel in her honor. For the next thousand years Mount Carmel continued to be a place where hermits devoted themselves to prayer.

Since Mary’s life is a reflection of a perfect following of Jesus, she is our model of discipleship.

Our Lady of Mt Carmel

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

IMG_0177

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.