Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

“The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)

Saint Cyril of Alexandria reflects on this verse from today’s First Reading, writes:

“And the Father was Christ’s helper. For he did not allow or concede that his own Son should be completely shamed or overwhelmed. For they were punished, those who sought to take their punishment out on me as those who dare to fight with God. For though being with us, he was the only-begotten Word of God. He put on an identical human likeness, by which reason alone he was believed to be of a nature with us. For every human being is subject to faults and sins, and no one alive is completely blameless. He alone in becoming man retained the divine dignity. And being Word and God, his flesh was able to shoo away destruction. Thus, the Son became a man who was fit to be accepted by the Father. For all that human beings have is Godgiven. For the one God and Father, through him, undid the power of death through his resurrection from the dead. He was the servant of God, who while being human was yet truly the Son of God and the Father. And to hear his voice means no transgression of the law but a confirming of the law through types and shadows discerning the truth which is Christ and the prophecies of him, as Paul notes. His voice is the evangelical and divine preaching that calls us to the redemption that is through faith in Christ. He also calls us to a proper behavior that lives in a way that is, by far, more consistent than the way of the law. The law was given in the shadows. Faith was given in the bright and shining light.” (Commentary on Isaiah, 4)


Collect
Almighty ever-living God,
Who as an example of humility
for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh
and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed
His lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen





Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Blessed is the king of Israel.

Today’s Second Reading from the
Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours)
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

An excerpt from: Oration 9: On the Palm Branches
Saint Andrew of Crete
(bishop)

Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation. He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us with himself, we are told in Scripture, above every sovereignty, authority, and power, and every other name that can be named, now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem. He comes without pomp or ostentation. As the psalmist says: He will not dispute or raise his voice to make it heard in the streets. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward Jerusalem, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.

In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens—the proof, surely, of his power and godhead—his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.

So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 

Lent: Saturday of the Fifth Week

“My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Ezekiel 37:27)

Saint Cyril of Alexandria reflects on this verse from today’s First Reading, writes:

“To be made partakers of Christ, both intellectually and by our senses, fills us with every blessing. For he dwells in us, first, by the Holy Spirit, and we are his abode, according to that which was said of old by one of the holy prophets.”


Collect
O God,
who have made all those reborn in Christ
a chosen race and a royal priesthood,
grant us, we pray,
the grace to will and to do what you command,
that the people called to eternal life
may be one in the faith of their hearts
and the homage of their deeds.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen





We are soon going to share in the Passover

Today’s Second Reading from the
Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours)
Lent: Saturday of the Fifth Week

An excerpt from: Oration 45
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus
(bishop and Father of the Church)

We are soon going to share in the Passover, and although we still do so only in a symbolic way, the symbolism already has more clarity than it possessed in former times because, under the law, the Passover was, if I may dare to say so, only a symbol of a symbol. Before long, however, when the Word drinks the new wine with us in the kingdom of his Father, we shall be keeping the Passover in a yet more perfect way, and with deeper understanding. He will then reveal to us and make clear what he has so far only partially disclosed. For this wine, so familiar to us now, is eternally new.

It is for us to learn what this drinking is, and for him to teach us. He has to communicate this knowledge to his disciples, because teaching is food, even for the teacher.

So let us take our part in the Passover prescribed by the law, not in a literal way, but according to the teaching of the Gospel; not in an imperfect way, but perfectly; not only for a time, but eternally. Let us regard as our home the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one; the city glorified by angels, not the one laid waste by armies. We are not required to sacrifice young bulls or rams, beasts with horns and hoofs that are more dead than alive and devoid of feeling; but instead, let us join the choirs of angels in offering God upon his heavenly altar a sacrifice of praise. We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second, turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies. I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.

If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.

If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 

Lent: Friday of the Fifth Week

“LORD of hosts, you test the just, you see mind and heart, Let me see the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause.” (Jeremiah 20:12)

Saint Jerome offers the following insight on these verses from today’s First Reading:

“The Lord alone is able to certify justice, in the same way that he alone sees the interior of a person’s heart. Hence, Jesus knows the thoughts of people not as an acquired skill, as some allege, but because he is God by nature. Such is what the psalmist sings: “No living creature will be justified in your presence.” If none of those living in virtue are justified, how much more true will this be of those who are dead from sin! Even though the just person knows himself to have God as a defender, the impatience of human fragility desires to see right now what it knows to be coming. Jeremiah also entrusted his cause to God, to the one who said elsewhere, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord.” But the conscience is happy whose cause is entrusted to the Lord, as the apostle said: “Anything that is visible is light.” (Six Books on Jeremiah, 4)


Collect
Pardon the offenses of Your peoples,
we pray, O Lord,
and in Your goodness set us free
from the bonds of the sins
we have committed in our weakness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

Christ offered himself for us

Today’s Second Reading from the
Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours)
Lent: Friday of the Fifth Week

An excerpt from: A Treatise on Faith
Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe
(bishop)

The sacrifices of animal victims which our forefathers were commanded to offer to God by the holy Trinity itself, the one God of the old and the new testaments, foreshadowed the most acceptable gift of all. This was the offering which in his compassion the only Son of God would make of himself in his human nature for our sake.

The Apostle teaches that Christ offered himself for us to God as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. He is the true God and the true high priest who for our sake entered once for all into the holy of holies, taking with him not the blood of bulls and goats but his own blood. This was foreshadowed by the high priest of old when each year he took blood and entered the holy of holies.

Christ is therefore the one who in himself alone embodied all that he knew to be necessary to achieve our redemption. He is at once priest and sacrifice, God and temple. He is the priest through whom we have been reconciled, the sacrifice by which we have been reconciled, the temple in which we have been reconciled, the God with whom we have been reconciled. He alone is priest, sacrifice and temple because he is all these things as God in the form of a servant; but he is not alone as God, for he is this with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of God.

Hold fast to this and never doubt it: the only-begotten Son, God the Word, becoming man offered himself for us to God as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. In the time of the old testament, patriarchs, prophets and priests sacrificed animals in his honor, and in honor of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well. Now in the time of the new testament the holy catholic Church throughout the world never ceases to offer the sacrifice of bread and wine, in faith and love, to him and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom he shares one godhead.

Those animal sacrifices foreshadowed the flesh of Christ which he would offer for our sins, though himself without sin, and the blood which he would pour out for the forgiveness of our sins. In this sacrifice there is thanksgiving for, and commemoration of, the flesh of Christ that he offered for us, and the blood that the same God poured out for us. On this Saint Paul says in the Acts of the Apostles: Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as bishops to rule the Church of God, which he won for himself by his blood.

Those sacrifices of old pointed in sign to what was to be given to us. In this sacrifice we see plainly what has already been given to us. Those sacrifices foretold the death of the Son of God for sinners. In this sacrifice he is proclaimed as already slain for sinners, as the Apostle testifies: Christ died for the wicked at a time when we were still powerless, and when we were enemies we were reconciled with God through the death of his Son.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 

Lent: Thursday of the Fifth Week

“No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:5)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed at Mass today:

“Many responses are given to Abraham by God, but they are not all delivered to one and the same man. For some are to Abram and some to Abraham; that is, some are expressed after the change of name and others while he was still known by his name given at birth. And first indeed, before the change of name, God delivered to Abraham the oracle that says, “Go out from your country and from your kindred and from your father’s house,” and the rest. But no order is given in this about the covenant of God, no order about circumcision. For it was not possible while he was still Abram and was bearing the name of his physical birth to receive the covenant of God and the mark of circumcision. But when “he went out from his country and his kindred,” then responses of a more sacred kind are delivered to him at this time. First God says to him, “You shall no longer be called Abram, but Abraham shall be your name.” Then at once he received the covenant of God and accepted circumcision as a sign of faith that he could not accept while he was still in his father’s house and in the relationship of flesh and while he was still called Abram.” (Homilies on Genesis, 3)



Collect
Be near, O Lord, to those who plead before You,
and look kindly on those
who place their hope in Your mercy,
that, cleansed from the stain of their sins,
they may persevere in holy living
and be made full heirs of Your promise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen





The Church as sacrament of unity and salvation

Today’s Second Reading from the
Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours)
Lent Week 5: Thursday

An excerpt from:
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
(Lumen Gentium)

See, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah ... I will plant my law within them and inscribe it in their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people ... All shall know me, from the least to the greatest, says the Lord.

It was Christ who established this new covenant, the new testament in his blood, calling into being, from Jews and Gentiles, a people that was to form a unity, not in human fashion but in the Spirit, as the new people of God. Those who believe in Christ, reborn not of corruptible but of incorruptible seed through the word of the living God, not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, are constituted in the fullness of time as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people God has made his own ..., once no people but now the people of God.

This messianic people has Christ as its head: Christ who was given up for our sins and rose again for our justification; bearing now the name that is above every name, he reigns in glory in heaven. His people enjoy the dignity and freedom of the children of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple. They have as their law the new commandment of loving as Christ himself has loved us. They have as their goal the kingdom of God, begun on earth by God himself and destined to grow until it is also brought to perfection by him at the end of time, when Christ, our life, will appear, and creation itself will be freed from slavery to corruption and take on the freedom of the glory of God’s children.

This messianic people, then, though it does not in fact embrace all mankind and often seems to be a tiny flock, is yet the enduring source of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. It is established by Christ as a communion of life, of love and of truth; it is also used by him as an instrument for the redemption of all, and is sent out into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

The Israel of old was already called the Church of God while it was on pilgrimage through the desert. So the new Israel, as it makes its way in this present age, seeking a city that is to come, a city that will remain, is also known as the Church of Christ, for he acquired it by his own blood, filled it with his Spirit, and equipped it with appropriate means to be a visible and social unity. God has called together the assembly of those who in faith look on Jesus, the author of salvation and the principle of unity and peace, and so has established the Church to be for each and all the visible sacrament of this unity which brings with it salvation.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the virgin, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.” (Jeremiah 11:18)

Saint Jerome offers the following insight on these verses from today’s First Reading:

“By no means will God speak in many and various ways, according to the apostle Paul, nor according to another prophet will he be represented through the hands of the prophets, but he who previously spoke through others will himself say “Here I am.” The bride in the Song of Songs also asked in this regard: “O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!” For “the Lord of hosts is himself the King of glory.” He will descend to a virginal womb and will enter and exit through the eastern gate that always remains closed, concerning which Gabriel said to the virgin: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the one who will be born to you is holy and will be called the Son of God.” And Proverbs writes, “Wisdom built itself a home.” Thus when it is said, “The Lord himself will give you a sign,” this should refer to something new and marvelous.” (Commentary on Isaiah, 3)


Collect
O God, who willed that your Word
should take on the reality of human flesh
in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
grant, we pray,
that we,
who confess our Redeemer to be God and man,
may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature.
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

Solemnity
Annunciation of the Lord
— The Incarnation of our Lord, Jesus Christ —

Today’s Second Reading from the
Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours)
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The Incarnation of our Lord, Jesus Christ

An excerpt from: Letter 28 to flavius
Pope Saint Leo the Great
(pope and Father of the Church)


Lowliness is assured by majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our sinful state, a nature that was incapable of suffering was joined to one that could suffer. Thus, in keeping with the healing that we needed, one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other.

He who is true God was therefore born in the complete and perfect nature of a true man, whole in his own nature, whole in ours. By our nature we mean what the Creator had fashioned in us from the beginning, and took to himself in order to restore it.

For in the Savior there was no trace of what the deceiver introduced and man, being misled, allowed to enter. It does not follow that because he submitted to sharing in our human weakness he therefore shared in our sins.

He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.

Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.

He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.

He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the lowliness of man and the pre-eminence of God coexist in mutual relationship.

As God does not change by his condescension, so man is not swallowed up by being exalted. Each nature exercises its own activity, in communion with the other. The Word does what is proper to the Word, the flesh fulfills what is proper to the flesh.

One nature is resplendent with miracles, the other falls victim to injuries. As the Word does not lose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race.

One and the same person—this must be said over and over again—is truly the Son of God and truly the son of man. He is God in virtue of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is man in virtue of the fact that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen