Summary of the Law (said at every Sunday Mass)

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Meditations for Holy Week 2018

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Palm Sunday
(Matthew 21.1-11, Mark 11.1-11, Luke 19.28-44, John 12.12-18)

Here is no continuing city, here is no abiding stay.
Ill the wind, ill the time, uncertain the profit, certain the danger.
O late late late, late is the time, late too late, and rotten the year;
Evil the wind, and bitter the sea, and grey the sky, grey grey grey.
O Thomas, return, Archbishop; return, return to France.
Return. Quickly. Quietly. Leave us to perish in quiet.
You come with applause, you come with rejoicing, but you come bringing death into Canterbury:
A doom on the house, a doom on yourself, a doom on the world.

We do not wish anything to happen.
Seven years we have lived quietly,
Succeeded in avoiding notice,
Living and partly living.
There have been oppression and luxury,
There have been poverty and license,
There has been minor injustice.
Yet we have gone on living,
Living and partly living.

—T. S. Eliot, Murder In the Cathedral

Fig Monday
(Matthew 21.12-22, Mark 11.12-26, Luke 19.45-48)

A shadow passed over Saruman’s face; then it went deathly white. Before he could conceal it, they saw through the mask the anguish of a mind in doubt, loathing to stay and dreading to leave its refuge. For a second he hesitated, and no one breathed. Then he spoke, and his voice was shrill and cold. Pride and hate were conquering him.

—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Temple Tuesday
(Matthew 21.23-26.2, Mark 11.27-13.37, Luke 20.1-21.38, John 12.19-50)

Professing only a moral union, they fled
from the new-spread bounty; they found a quarrel with the Empire
and the sustenance of Empire, with the ground of faith and earth,
the golden and rose-creamed flesh of the grand Ambiguity. [1]

Fast as they, the orthodox imagination
seized on the Roman polity; there, for a day,
beyond history, holding history at bay,
it established through the themes [2] of the Empire the condition of Christendom
and saw everywhere the manumission of grace into glory.
Beyond the line of ancient imperial shapes
it saw the Throne of primal order, the zone
of visionary powers, and almost (in a cloud) the face
of the only sublime Emperor; as John once
in Patmos, so then all the Empire in Byzantium:
the Acts of the Throne were borne by the speeding logothetes, [3]
and the earth flourished, hazel, corn, and vine. [4]

—Charles Williams, The Region of the Summer Stars, ‘Prelude’

Spy Wednesday
(Matthew 26.3-16, Mark 14.1-11, Luke 22.1-6)

If suddenly he should change his mind,
Tell the dark boy with copper hair
To go, to go,
And he went, lamenting, granting
His mercy from eyes like ruined planets—
Would the end of the world find him friendless?
Before God Glorified, he thought,
I shall stand,
And my knees knock from not kneeling.

Only his mother, he supposed, and one or two
With whom he had never been possessed,
Might say something to extenuate,
Might ask forgiveness for a fool’s despair.
But then, suddenly, he laughed,
The bars are all open in hell.

—Dunstan Thompson, Lament for the Sleepwalker, ‘Merciful God This is a Strange Reckoning’

Maundy Thursday
(Matthew 26.17-46, Mark 14.12-42, Luke 22.7-46, John 13.1-17.26)

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of pain.
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

—Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Good Friday
(Matthew 26.47-27.61, Mark 14.43-15.47, Luke 22.47-23.53, John 18.1-19.42)

Father was eighty years old now, and promptly at 8.45 each evening—an hour sooner than formerly—he would open the Bible, the signal for prayers, read one chapter, ask God’s blessing on us through the night, and by 9.15 be climbing the stairs to his bedroom. Tonight, however, the Prime Minister was to address the nation at 9.30. One question ached through all of Holland like a long-held breath: would there be war?

… Then the Prime Minister’s voice was speaking to us, sonorous and soothing. There would be no war. He had had assurances from high sources on both sides. Holland’s neutrality would be respected. It would be the Great War all over again. There was nothing to fear. Dutchmen were urged to remain calm and to—

The voice stopped. Betsie and I looked up, astonished. Father had snapped off the set and in his blue eyes was a fire we had never seen before.

‘It is wrong to give people hope when there is no hope,’ he said. ‘It is wrong to base faith upon wishes. There will be war. The Germans will attack and we will fall.’

He stamped on his cigar stub in the ashtray beside the radio and with it, it seemed, the anger too, for his voice grew gentle again. ‘Oh my dears, I am sorry for all Dutchmen now who do not know the power of God. For we will be beaten. But He will not.’

—Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

Holy Saturday
(Matthew 27.62-66, Luke 23.54-56)

A voice came from beyond the river: ‘Do not do it.’

Instantly—I had been freezing cold till now—a wave of fire passed over me, even down to my numb feet. It was the voice of a god. Who should know better than I? A god’s voice had once shattered my whole life. They are not to be mistaken. It may well be that by trickery of priests men have sometimes taken a mortal’s voice for a god’s. But it will not work the other way. No one who hears a god’s voice takes it for a mortal’s.

‘Lord, who are you?’ said I.

‘Do not do it,’ said the god. ‘You cannot escape Ungit [5] by going to the deadlands, for she is there also. Die before you die. There is no chance after.’

‘Lord, I am Ungit.’

But there was no answer. And that is another thing about the voices of the gods; when once they have ceased, though it is only a heart-beat ago and the bright hard syllables, the heavy bars or mighty obelisks of sound, are still master in your ears, it is as if they had ceased a thousand years before, and to expect further utterance is like asking for an apple from a tree that fruited the day the world was made.

—C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Easter Sunday
(Matthew 28.1-8, Mark 16.1-20 [6], Luke 24.1-49, John 20.1-23)

A red-gold glow burst suddenly across the enchanted sky above them as an edge of dazzling sun appeared over the sill of the nearest window. The light hit both of their faces at the same time, so that Voldemort’s was suddenly a flaming blur. Harry heard the high voice shriek as he too yelled his best hope to the heavens, pointing Draco’s wand:

Avada Kedavra!


The bang was like a cannon blast, and the golden flames that erupted between them, at the dead center of the circle they had been treading, marked the point where the spells collided. Harry saw Voldemort’s green jet meet his own spell, saw the Elder Wand fly high, dark against the sunrise, spinning across the enchanted ceiling … toward the master it would not kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last. …

One shivering second of silence, the shock of the moment suspended: and then the tumult broke around Harry as the screams and the cheers and the roars of the watchers rent the air. The fierce new sun dazzled the windows as they thundered toward him, and the first to reach him were Ron and Hermione, and it was their arms that were wrapped around him, their incomprehensible shouts that deafened him. Then Ginny, Neville, and Luna were there, and then all the Weasleys and Hagrid, and Kingsley and McGonagall and Flitwick and Sprout, and Harry could not hear a word that anyone was shouting, nor tell whose hands were seizing him, pulling him, trying to hug some part of him, hundreds of them pressing in, all of them determined to touch the Boy Who Lived, the reason it was over at last …

—J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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[1] They here refers to the heretics of the first several centuries and particularly to the Gnostic and Nestorian heretics, whose beliefs refused either the fact or the fullness of the Incarnation (the grand Ambiguity of the two Natures, human and divine).
[2] In Byzantine terminology, a theme was roughly equivalent to a province.
[3] The office of logothete was an administrative role, originally applying to financial affairs and eventually extended to the civil service generally.
[4] The hazel in Williams’ poetry is typically cited because of its pedigree as a tool in magic (wands being by preference made of hazel), and thus by extension as a sign for transcendent and supernatural things generally; corn in contemporary British English could be used to signify grain in general, as opposed to maize in particular. Thus, hazel, corn, and vine could be understood as the spiritual, civil, and cultural aspects of the Empire, or as a trinal symbol of the Eucharist itself (spiritual power in combination with the grain and wine derived from corn and vine), or most probably both.
[5] In Till We Have Faces, Ungit is a pagan goddess of fertility, vaguely equivalent to Aphrodite, but more Sumerian in character, with a devouring aspect as well.
[6] Mark 16.1-9 are original to the Gospel. Mark 16.11-20 are more dubious, and seem to represent a redactor’s effort to harmonize the ending of Mark with the ending of Luke.

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