April 27, 2011
Most of us would know that Lent is forty days long – the hymn ‘Forty days and Forty nights’ makes that abundantly clear, but I wonder how many of us are aware that Easter lasts for fifty days? The celebration of Easter lasts until the feast of Pentecost ( a clue as it means fifty) which this year falls on the 12th June. For all this time the Church is celebrating and reflecting on the resurrection. As we go through the Sundays of Easter the readings bring to our attention different aspects of what it means to say that Jesus is risen.
This weekend we continue the celebration of Easter day itself. Low Sunday, (from the Latin, laus meaning praise) is really a mini-Easter all over again. On this day the newly baptised wear their white garments again and the Liturgy should be a solemn as that of Easter day itself. We hear further accounts of the risen Lord appearing to the disciples and of the transformative power of his resurrection.
We live in a world that is always far too eager to rush on to the next thing and is always trying to anticipate events (witness all the column inches about the royal wedding!). The Church is wiser, it invites us to pause and reflect. We now have fifty days to ponder the resurrection and to imbibe its meaning.
April 20, 2011
This week is Holy Week – the most important week in the Church’s year. At the end of it we celebrate the three most important days in the Church’s year – the Easter Triduum. During those three days – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve – we will not just be remembering the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we will also be sharing in their life-giving power. At every Eucharist we take part in the death and resurrection of Jesus made present in the sacrifice of the Mass. These three days are like an extended Mass, giving us time not just to remember but also to be immersed.
The Christian faith is rooted in history, but it is not bound by it. What happened in the life of Jesus now happens in the lives of those who believe in him. In the sacraments they die with Christ so that they may live with him. Baptism is both a tomb and a womb (see the Letter to the Romans). The Eucharist celebrates the life-giving death of Jesus. In the Easter Triduum the mystery of faith that we proclaim at every Mass is made more vivid, and we express our confidence that ‘dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life’.
April 15, 2011
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week. During this, the most important week in the Church’s year, we are invited to share in the mystery at the heart of our faith – the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is a mystery because we cannot explain it totally, though we can speak of it intelligently, and also because it reveals to us in a human way the love at the very heart of the Godhead.
It is important to realise that we are not indulging in some holy pantomime, pretending that we are back in Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago. As well as being grade-one schmaltz, the hymn ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord’ can only admit of a negative answer. We were not – and it doesn’t matter! What does matter is that we celebrate what that death means, what it has done for us, and what it enables us to do. When we creep to the Cross on Good Friday we are venerating the instrument of torture that is transformed into the sign of life.
There is so much going on in the next few days. It is a time to listen and watch and pray – but above all to take part. The death and resurrection we celebrate is not just some past event, though it is that, but it is the life giving reality at the very core of our faith.
April 9, 2011
For well over a thousand years Christians have been listening to the same gospel readings Sunday by Sunday that we have listened to this Lent. The temptation and the transfiguration show us Jesus conquering the power of the devil. John’s stories of the woman at the well, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus reveal to us who Jesus really is. In each of those stories the bystanders and the chief characters themselves have to re-learn who He is. Those stories are given to us because we find ourselves depicted there. The stories tell of growth in faith: Jesus is revealed as the Living Water, the Light of the World, and, this Sunday, as the Resurrection and the Life.
But as well as telling us of the faith journey we all have to undertake the readings also point us towards Easter when through sign and symbol we will celebrate all these things. At the Easter Vigil the Paschal Candle will lighten our way in to the darkened Church, a little later life giving water will be poured over those seeking baptism and they will be reborn, and a little later again we will share in the Body and Blood of the risen Christ.
April 3, 2011
Whatever the origins of Mothering Sunday, and it is difficult to discern them beneath the schmaltz and crass commercialism, this fourth Sunday of Lent has always been important in liturgy. This marks the half way point of our journey of forty days. To give some refreshment and relief to the rigours of Lent the rules are relaxed somewhat. The organ can be played not just to sustain singing and the priest traditionally wears rose colour vestments – just one of two times in the year. The Sunday is known as Laetare Sunday from the opening words of the Latin introit. We pause, refresh ourselves, and so it is a good time to treat our mothers – and ourselves – to a little break from the Lenten fast.
From now on the pace of Lent quickens and before we know it we will be in the throes of Holy Week and Easter. Now is the time for us to take stock of our Lenten resolutions and ask how we are doing with fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. If we’re not doing too well then we can restart. If we are then we must pray for the strength to continue the good work. We are journeying towards Easter and the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. It is worth the little sacrifices that we make.