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

 

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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

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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.

Saint Rosalia of Palermo

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No other woman is so beloved as Palermo’s own Saint Rosalia. When you come to visit, you’ll see her image everywhere you look. Of course, you’ll find her in churches, but I’m talking about everywhere.

Our Saint Rosalia is beautiful in all her different representations.

Today, she rests in the Monte Pellegrino Hermitage. Her bones are kept in the reliquary of the Cathedral. And you can find the lovely Van Dyck portrait of Saint Rosalia that is on display in the Palazzo Abatellis.

Wherever you find her portrait, you’ll find flowers offered about her image. According to legend, when Saint Rosalia performed miracles, bystanders noticed the sweet odor of flowers that emanated from her presence.

For those of you who are interested, I’m gonna tell you a short recap of the life and work of Saint Rosalia. Old Don Tano is pretty old, but not old enough to be present at any of the famous miracles performed by our own Santa Rosalia.

But I read you know. Besides, here in Palermo, everybody knows the legend and all the stories that surround the lovely Saint Rosalia.

Our Lady was born in 1126 right here in Palermo, a daughter of the aristocracy. Her father was Count Roger I.

In those days, it was normal for the parents to arrange suitable marriages for their children. But Saint Rosalia refused to accept a husband from the many choices offered her. She felt a greater, more important call, so instead of allowing herself to be married, she cloistered herself in a convent.

But soon felt that there was too much gossip and petty jealousy much like it had been at court, so then Saint Rosalia installed herself in a little cave. The cave in Pellegrino Mountwas the property of her father. Saint Rosalia was to remain in her cave until her death.

But during her lifetime she performed a number of miracles. During a 1624 plague, in one of her most famous appearances, she showed herself to a soap maker.

She bade him suggest to the cardinal that her bones be brought to a procession so she could stop the plague.

Today she is our Sicilian heroine and The Festino di Santa Rosalia (The Feast of Saint Rosalia). Many visitors including traveler scientist Patrick Brydone, insist this is the most beautiful popular feast in all of Europe.

These colorful festivities take place on the evening of July 14th when Saint Rosalia’s relics resting in a grand chariot are paraded from the Old Town to the Marina, culminating in a grand spectacle of fireworks.

The most outstanding feature of the procession is the magnificent chariot. Shaped like a vessel it houses the statue of the Santuzza (Little Saint). Each year a new chariot is constructed just for this momentous event.

Actually, the chariot is the equivalent of a moving stage. It is about thirty-three feet long and wide. Oxen pull the chariot (although originally we understand elephants did that job).

Roses, angels, putti (cherubs) and Tritons blend together in gold and baroque colors decorate this wonderful chariot, while people continue to dance around the procession creating their own amazing choreography with lighting effects.

And in the meantime, everyone constantly keeps shouting Viva Palermo and Santa Rosalia(Hurrah for Palermo and Santa Rosalia!)

The following day (July 15th) Saint Rosalia’s relics are carried all around and finally returned to the Cathedral to be blessed by the Archbishop of Palermo.

If you do get to come to Palermo during these festivities and fail to attend — well, that would be a mortal sin’. I’ll come to your hotel in person and make you drink Marsala until you pass out! So be careful! This is one show you’ll never see anyplace else; only here in Palermo.

As an added bonus, during the festival, the Old Town fills with street food vendors who offer the best dishes on the Sicilian menu.

Above from https://wearepalermo.com/news/feast-saint-rosalia/

Wonderful story in March 26 nytimes. link below https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/arts/design/van-dyck-metropolitan-museum-virus.html

 

The Annunciation

700px-Leonardo_Da_Vinci_-_AnnunciazioneMary is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined. She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth. She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence. She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God. She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life. She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become. She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God. She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.

Annunciation of the Lord

From The Franciscan Media