Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Great Sabbath – Silence

Holy Saturday is here, an in-between day. Yesterday we lived the Passion and Death of Jesus with Stations of the Cross and the reading of the Passion. Tonight we begin the celebration of His resurrection with light, readings, and baptism.

It is a day of silence. As Pope Francis said earlier this week:

Holy Saturday is the day of the silence of God. Jesus shares with all humanity the drama of death, not leaving any space where the infinite mercy of God does not reach. On this day, love does not doubt, just as Mary, the first believer, did not doubt, but kept silence and hoped. Love hopes confident in the word of the Lord until Christ rises in splendor on the day of the Paschal feast.

It is a day to set aside to watch and wait, preferably in silence.

Father Damasus Winzen, the founder of the primitive Benedictine Mount Saviour Monastery near Elmira, New York, wrote a beautiful little essay on Holy Saturday, entitled “The Great Sabbath Rest.” In this essay he notes the importance of silence:

Next to fasting, silence is the most important means to keep the spirit of Holy Saturday. Turn off the radio and television. Avoid all unnecessary talking. Stop the voice of man that God may have a chance to speak to our heart. “It is good to wait in silence for the salvation of God” [Lamentations 3:26], is one of the verses we hear during Matins of Holy Saturday. Silence is fasting with our tongue. We disclaim the right to make ourselves heard. We take our place among God’s disciples. We are ready to listen. Silence is the external sign of an inner conversion from self-assertion to faith in God’s saving love. “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel. If you return and be quiet, you shall be saved: in silence and in hope shall your strength be” [Isaiah 30:15]. The silence of Holy Saturday is not only the empty silence of not talking and of stopping all noise. It is an imitation of our Lord’s silence, of the silence of selfless love, which, instead of accusing and defending, covers all sins and carries them in the depth of forgiveness. Therefore, the silence of Holy Saturday should be an inner silence of the heart.

Today I will not be all that silent and restful. The Dulce Nombre choir is supposed to come here to my house for a morning of silent retreat. I will try to lead them into silence.

UPDATE: They cancelled the retreat morning. Someone left a message last night after  had gone to bed. But still, here’s what I had planned.

First we will spend some time quieting ourselves with meditative prayer.

Then I will invite them to walk in silence accompanying Mary, John, Peter, Mary Magdalene, or another of the women who accompanied Jesus to the Cross or another of the apostles who abandoned Him. What did they experience, what did they feel on this day of rest, but also of silence, perhaps filled with a spirit of abandonment.

Finally I will share with them a meditation on the resurrection by Carlo Carretto.

I need this as much as they might to prepare for the Great Vigil where we will celebrate the Light of Christ come into the world – with fire, readings, the waters of baptism, and the Eucharist.

And so I recall the words of Psalm 46:

Be still and know that I am God…

Great advice before the Easter Vigil.

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Emptying

Today is Good Friday, recalling and celebrating the death of our Lord Jesus. Today we are also nine months before Christmas, the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus. If it were not Good Friday, we would be celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation.

Cristo negroIntibuca

There was among some early Christians the belief that the annunciation and the crucifixion shared the same date.

But there are deeper connections between these two events, these two feasts.

Both teach us that our God is not a God who lords it over us. Our God became flesh and handed himself over even to the point of death.

This is, for me, the point of Philippians 2: 6-7:

[Christ Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (μορφὴν δούλου), coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

But there is another connection, one that causes me to ask what I am called to be and to do.

Mary responded to the angel Gabriel, “Behold the slave (δούλη) of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.”

On the Cross, Jesus cried out, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Both Mary and Jesus handed themselves over to the plans of God, leaving aside their own plans.

Our God is a God who empties Himself, who becomes a slave.

Where do I need to be emptied so that God may come and rise within me?

That is my question for Good Friday this year.

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Photo is of the El Señor de Intibucá.

Dying and fruitfulness: Romero and Holy Thursday

 

Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it,
it remains only a single grain.
If it dies, it brings forth much fruit.
John 12: 24

The night he was martyred, the blessed martyr Monseñor Oscar Romero chose John 12: 23-26 as the Gospel for the Mass he was celebrating on the anniversary of the death of the mother of a journalist friend.

In his short homily, he noted the significance of this text:

…you have just heard in Christ’s Gospel that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and that those who try to fend off the danger will lose their lives, while those who out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others will live, like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently. If it did not die, it would remain alone. The harvest comes about only because it dies, allowing itself to be sacrificed in the earth and destroyed, Only by undoing itself does it produce the harvest.

The mystery of emptying oneself is central to our faith. Some, like Monseñor Romero, show this by giving their life as martyrs, after living a life of witness to Jesus. All of us are called to give of ourselves each day, in all that we do. We are all called to empty ourselves in love and service of God and others, so that we may be filled with the love and mercy of God.

At the end of his homily that night in the cancer hospital chapel, just moments before he was martyred, Romero noted the Eucharistic meaning of this emptying, indeed of his martyrdom:

May this Body immolated and this Blood sacrificed for humans nourish us also, so that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain —like Christ, not for self, but to bring about justice and peace for our people.

May this Holy Thursday, a day we recall Christ’s handing himself over for us in his passion, but also in the Eucharist, also remind us of the call to empty ourselves, bending down to wash the feet of the poor.

Romero CAP

Painting in the Center of Art for Peace in Suchitoto

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Quotations taken from Archbishop Oscar Romero,  Voice of the Voiceless. Orbis Books, 1985

 

The poor, ointment, and diamond rings

There should be no poor among you.
Deuteronomy 15:4

Today’s reading about the anointing of Jesus by Mary in Bethany (John 12: 1-6) has been twisted so much that we may find it hard to see Jesus in it.

Mary shows her great love by an extravagant gesture – anointing the feet of Jesus with aromatic nard. It is a gesture of love a gesture of giving to the Beloved.

Judas objects that the oil could have been sold and the returns given to the poor.

Jesus responds that “the poor you have always with you…”

A good Jew would know that this quote from Deuteronomy 15:11 is part of a longer passage which entails obligations to the poor. In fact, the full quote of verse 11 (from the New American Bible translation) reads:

The needy will never be lacking in the land, that is why I command you to open your hand to your poor and needy kinsman in your country.

The verse could be considered a condemnation of the failure of a nation to care for the poor. It is not a call to resignation in the face of the needy.

As I reflect this morning on poverty and extravagance, I recall the story of Dorothy Day that is related by Jim Forest, in an article.

A donor visited the Catholic Worker and gave Dorothy a diamond ring. Later a woman who was a regular visitor to the Worker came in and Dorothy gave her the ring.

As Forest notes:

Someone on the staff said to Dorothy, “Wouldn’t it have been better if we took the ring to the diamond exchange, sold it, and paid that woman’s rent for a year?”
Dorothy replied that the woman had her dignity and could do what she liked with the ring. She could sell it for rent money or take a trip to the Bahamas. Or she could enjoy wearing a diamond ring on her hand like the woman who gave it away. “Do you suppose,” Dorothy asked, “that God created diamonds only for the rich?”

I wonder if what Jesus wants us to do is to anoint the feet of the poor with anointment. Their feet are worn and cracked as are the feet of this man who carried a cross in our parish Stations of the Cross last Friday.

DSC07193

How can we be extravagant in our love for each poor person – not for a nameless mass of poor people, but for a real poor person we can meet, embrace, and share love with each other?

Eucharist celebrated, adored, and lived

The Eucharist is to be celebrated, adored, and lived.

This week I took part in the retreat for the clergy of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. I am not yet a member of the clergy but took part as a candidate fort eh permanent diaconate.

Each day began with Mass at 7:00 am, with conferences by the retreat preacher, Father Antonio Rivero, LC. At 4:30 each day we had exposition and adoration of the Eucharist until dinner at 6:00 pm.

Father Antonio spoke of this as a day that began with the Eucharist celebrated and that ended (expect for dinner and night prayer) with the Eucharist adored.

Padre German and I didn’t stay at the retreat center outside of Santa Rosa de Copán because there were not enough rooms for all the priests. So at night we returned to Dulce Nombre where I slept the first three nights.

One night Padre German went to visit Ernesto, an old man who is dying. I had accompanied him a few weeks ago.

We stood around Ernesto’s bed with a son and a daughter-in-law. Another son and daughter-in-law arrived a bit later.

Ernesto was generally unresponsive, though they told us that he had been responsive the day before. He also was not eating.

After a few prayers, Padre administered the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Then we prayed some more and left.

This was the Eucharist lived. Although Ernesto could not receive the Eucharist, here Christ was present.

This experience at Ernesto’s bedside reminded me of my experience with my father, caring for him as he was dying. I also marveled at the care the family was giving him.

I was also reminded that in this year of mercy we are called to practice more fervently the works of mercy, including visiting the sick.

I also found myself challenged. If I am to be ordained a deacon, I need to be present more to the sick and dying, for Christ is present there as well as on the altar.

And so the challenge is to live the Eucharist which we celebrate and adore – living the presence of Christ in the church and in the marginal spaces of this world

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Ernesto died a day or two ago. May he rest in peace in God’s loving presence.