Sacred Triduum 1: The Lord’s Supper

Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of The Sacred Paschal Triduum. These three solemn days celebrate the greatest mysteries of our redemption. The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church gathers and with special celebrations keeps the memory of our Lord’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

On Maundy Thursday the Holy Church begins the Triduum with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. When our Lord was about to be handed over to death, He entrusted to His Church a sacrifice which was New for all eternity. This was the New Covenant in His blood; the banquet of His love.

The central act of Christian being is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Everything we seek to do, seek to be, all the other Sacraments, all church ministries, and the works of the apostolate, are all bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented towards it. It is in the Holy Eucharist itself that is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, because it contains Christ Himself, our paschal lamb.

The most sacred Eucharist is both a giving and a receiving. In this great mystery of salvation God gives Himself to us, and, if we are in a state of grace*, we receive and consume Christ the paschal lamb, who sacrifices Himself for us on the Cross. Albeit in a lesser way, we also give; we give ourselves in worship and prayer to God, uniting our sufferings and trials with His on the Cross, and if we have done this worthily, He receives us into that communion in the divine Life by which the Church is kept in being.

By the Eucharistic celebration we unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy. We anticipate eternal life when God will be all in all.

So the Eucharist, the Mass, is the sum and summary of our Faith, our Christian life, and it is the most sacred and most mysterious act of the Church, in which we have the greatest privilege of participating in one way or another.

Thanks be to God for His most ineffable Gift.

Fr Ian

* If we are in a state of mortal sin (by committing a grave sin freely and with knowledge) then we cannot receive the Eucharist until we are reconciled to God by the Sacrament of Penance. If we receive the Eucharist unworthily we profane Christ and commit a further grave sin.

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The valuing of Jesus

Jesus had been anointed with the costly ointment, oil of nard, by Mary of Bethany*. When that had occurred some of the disciples, and in particular Judas Iscariot, had complained that this was an over the top gesture towards Jesus. The cost of such ointment was estimated at over 200 denarii – and we get an idea of how expensive that was if we realise that 1 denarius was the day’s wage for the average worker. So the ointment of nard cost the wages of a worker for 200 days. So Judas and some of the others rebuked Mary for “wasting” this on Jesus, suggesting that it be sold and the money given to the poor.

The generosity of Mary reveals how much she values Jesus. For her, no gift is too much for her Lord and Saviour. This is in complete contrast to Judas Iscariot who not only betrays Jesus but does so for money. He only values Jesus at thirty pieces of silver, which is the price of a slave (Ex 21:32).

What do we give our Lord? How generous are we? Or are we grudging in our gifts? Perhaps we think our Lord does not need our gift, and there are better uses for it? There is a world of difference between the giving of Mary and Judas. So how willing are we to give generously to our Lord? The Lord preserve us from giving a gift like Judas.

Fr Ian

* Although Matthew does not reveal who anoints Jesus and merely says “a woman” (Mt 6:7), in John’s gospel (Jn 12:1-8) we hear that it was Mary of Bethany who anointed Jesus, and it is primarily Judas Iscariot who objects.

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The darkness grows but love in weakness conquers

The darkness around Jesus grows as we hear today of the betrayal of Judas and the cowardice of Peter.

It is important for us to realise that Jesus is not powerless against the growing evil intentions around Him. He could, as He tells us later in the Gospel, summon legions of angels to defend Himself. It is important for us to realise that Jesus chooses not to summon legions of angels; He chooses not to use force, of any kind, to defend Himself against the various attacks that are coming His way.

This can seem strange to us. We think it an obvious thing to use one’s power to defend oneself and avoid evil. But of course that is to think of just one’s self. Jesus, on the other hand, is on a mission and it is not about saving His own skin; it is about saving mankind! His mission is to face evil, to face betrayal, to face the cowardice of friends, to face false accusations, to face an unjust sentence, to face scourging, to face immense violence, and to face even death itself not with fear but with perfect love. He seeks not to avoid these things but to conquer them with love.

The darkness that is growing around Jesus is not just the darkness of human sin, human fear and human folly but also the darkness of the kingdom of Satan. It is Satan’s kingdom that is growing around Jesus in order to do away with God! Satan seeks to destroy God and all His Kingdom. And the only way He can do this is to pervert the hearts of men in their sin. In Peter’s heart is fear and Satan uses this to make Peter into a coward – Peter is not strong enough to resist fear, and so Peter ends up denying this man whom Peter says He is prepared to go to death for. In Judas is a heart of duplicity: he hides from the others his malice and evil intent, and for whatever reason he is willing to sell his loyalty to the enemies of his Master – and thus in Judas’ heart is a place ready for Satan to dwell. Satan enters Judas. Darkness falls all around.

The dimensions of the love of God are shown precisely by Christ’s acceptance of His suffering at the hands of evil men. This love of God cannot ever be conquered because it is divine. But Satan cannot see this! Evil men cannot see this! Men filled with fear cannot see this! Can we?

Love, perfect love, becomes a victim of all the schemes of wicked men, and becomes a victim of the kingdom of Satan, but remains true, remains unsullied, remains bright. And thus love conquers fear, hate, evil intent, violence, mockery, suffering and death itself. It does it not by human power but by human weakness re-made into the power of God. This path of self-emptying love is the path we are called walk because by it we share in our Saviour’s victory.

Amen.

Fr Ian

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Palms and Passion

Palm Sunday at St Mary’s Abbey was beautiful and sunny at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Lord’s Entrance. The choir sang beautifully. After the blessing of palms and the procession, upon entering the Abbey church we sand “Ride on, ride on in majesty”.

Father Abbot gave the homily. The weeks of Lent, he said, were a time where we are assessed as followers of Christ. Our following of Christ is a real following/journey towards our mother Jerusalem on high. There God lives amongst human beings and there is no more weeping or mourning. In the procession of palms we do not reconstruct historical events, but celebrate the mystery of salvation. For we journey towards the Altar which is at once both place of sacrifice and throne; of joy and mourning mingled together. Our Christian faith faces the reality of the human condition: where people cry “Hosanna to the King of David” one day, and in the same week cry “Crucify Him!” How fickle our feelings especially in a crowd! Where the inner vision is blurred human feelings and desires can lead to inhumanity. The Saviour’s way leads through suffering by sacrificial love nailed on the cross. His way does not stop us weeping nor takes away our pain, but it alters our inner vision and thus gives meaning to our pain and our weeping, and allows Christ’s power to work in us – then we followers are adopted sons and daughters.

Thanks to Father Abbot Holy Week, or Hebdomada Sancta (hebdomada being the Latin word I learnt today!), began with inspiration for the whole of Christian discipleship caught up in the triumphant entry of Our Lord into His own city, that would crucify Him, but would be the place where His final victory is won and where He would rise from the tomb.

Following the Mass my family had a picnic in the grounds of the Abbey. What do young boys do on Palm Sunday at an Abbey after lunch? They disappear into the undergrowth of course!

The Abbey grounds were looking beautiful and some of the spring flowers were still out.

Every blessing to you this Hebdomada Sancta!

Fr Ian Hellyer

 

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Blasphemy!

Jesus was accused of blasphemy which was punishable by stoning. It was a serious crime then and it is for us today also a very grave sin. Sadly it is all too common for us to hear people uttering blasphemous words and sentiments in everyday speech; we need to be very careful indeed about our own speech with this regard because we can easily put ourselves out of a state of grace.

Because of its gravity and because it is so common, we need to be clear what the sin is and what to do if we commit it.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Ex 20:7; Dt 5:11

Blasphemy is a sin against the love of God and opposes the second commandment. It is any uttering against God. This uttering can be silent and within, as well as audible. And it does not affect the gravity of the sin whether others can hear it or not. Any words of hatred, reproach or defiance against God are blasphemy. It can be speaking ill of God. It can be failing to respect God in one’s speech. And of course blasphemy is misusing the name of God, not least in a curse.

Blasphemy also extends to language against Christ’s Church, against the Saints, and against sacred things or places. It is also blasphemous to use God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce people to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. Blasphemy is contrary to the respect and honour due God and His holy name.

Blasphemy is intrinsically a grave sin. Some sins are intrinsically grave, and this means that whatever the circumstances are, and whatever the motives for sinning are, it is an act which in and of itself is gravely sinful. We cannot talk our way out of it!

So blasphemy’s intrinsic gravity means that if we commit that sin knowing it is sinful and we were not pressurised into it, we have committed mortal sin. By this sin we have cut ourselves off from God, turned away from Him and destroyed charity in our heart. In the state of mortal sin we can only be brought back by a new initiative of God’s mercy – that is, through the sacrament of Penance. In the state of mortal sin we may not receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar without bringing condemnation on ourselves and committing sacrilege.

If we realise we are a blasphemer we need to repent as soon as possible and we need to get to confession regularly until we have driven the habit out of our system.

We live in a time and place where God and His Holy name is regularly profaned, but for those without faith there is ignorance to defend their action. For those of us with faith, we have no such defence. God’s Holy name is for salvation not for cursing – by profaning His holiness and His sacred name we curse no one but ourselves.

Fr Ian

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Scandal

Jesus scandalised the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners. He spoke against those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus scandalised them when He suggested that the mercy He showed to sinners was that of God’s own attitude to sinners; by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet. Perhaps even more did He scandalise them by forgiving sins. Only God can forgive sins, so either Jesus was blaspheming or He was speaking the truth.

Only if Jesus is truly divine can He justify such claims that would otherwise be scandal and blasphemy. So all who listen to the Gospel must decide, is Jesus insane/wicked or is He divine – there is no other option if we take the evidence seriously.

Jesus’ divine identity was gradually revealed in what He said. When He said, “He who is not with me is against me”, this could only be taken seriously if Jesus was divine. Similarly when He said, “something greater than Jonah… greater than Solomon”, and something “greater than the Temple” was in Him. His reminder that David called his Messiah his Lord, was also revealing the Messiah as being divine. But then we come to the gospel of today (Jn 8:51-59) and Jesus then makes it quite plain: “Amen. Amen. I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM.” “I AM” was the divine name revealed by God to Moses at the burning bush.

Thus the Sanhedrin had to make a stark choice: was this man the Messiah God, or was Jesus a blasphemer deserving death? They made their choice and Jesus became the victim.

We too must make this choice. We make this choice when we accept the Christian faith as our faith. But we must also make this choice in the moral decisions of daily life. When we choose to sin, we choose to go against the way of Christ, and we thus make Him out to be a liar. Sin is an anti-Christ action, and in that sin we are identifying with the Sanhedrin who condemned Jesus. When we resist temptation, we affirm that Jesus is God the Saviour.

Fr Ian

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Enslaved

Many people today who have heard of Jesus think He is a good chap. “He did lots of good things for people, didn’t he?” they might say. Indeed our Lord did many good works. He healed the sick, He taught the ignorant, He forgave sinners, and He restored lepers. This much most people are willing to accept as evidence of a good man. (In acknowledging this much they are of course conveniently ignoring that He also raised the dead, He exorcised demons, He disturbed as well as comforted, He angered some people until they hated Him, and He also claimed to be divine!)

Christ’s good works were not done however because He was a nice chap. They were signs. His mission was not to eradicate earthly evils: hunger, injustice, illness and death. Jesus performed messianic signs. He came not to abolish all evils on earth, but to free men from the greatest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and daughters. The slavery of sin is the root cause of all forms of human bondage (Jn 8:34-36).

We need as Christians to appreciate that there are two kingdoms. One kingdom is of injustice, hunger, illness, misery, bondage and death – this is the kingdom of Satan. The Good News is that there is another kingdom – the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is justice, generosity, health, blessed happiness, freedom and life eternal. The kingdom of Satan enslaves and it does so through sin. People cannot just merely choose not to do unjust things etc.; they are enslaved into thinking that some things are good when they are actually evil in God’s eyes. They are also enslaved by habits of thinking and habits of deed which cloud their vision and make it difficult to change.

So Jesus performed messianic signs pointing to another reality, but He called on people to repent, and He forgave sins. In some cases He performed exorcisms which freed some people from the domination of demonic powers.

It is therefore no good just battling against injustice, or hunger, or any particular evil, because if one does not go to the root of the problem they will continue to spring up over and over again. The battle we wage as Christians, in Christ’s name and in Christ’s power, is against the principalities and powers of the kingdom of Satan, and it is against sin. We Christians work most of all to free others from their enslavement to sin, and consequently their blindness to what is actually evil.

Fr Ian

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From above or from below?

“You will die in your sin.” (Jn 8:21,24) Sin is not just doing something bad. Sin is, also, to enclose ourselves in on ourselves – to be wrapped up with ourselves. Enclosed in on ourselves in our own petty problems and relying only on human wisdom, we refuse to open ourselves to the horizons of God. This leads to death. A life closed to God is no real life at all.

In Holy Scripture people are divided into two camps: those from above, who seek God’s ways, and those from below, who seek limited human goals. Sin is to refuse to allow oneself to be born again from above, as Jesus told Nicodemus (Jn 3:3). The Jews, Jesus was speaking to, did not believe in Jesus. Jesus’ life and Jesus’ message reflected a world of transcendent values and goods – values and goods beyond this world. This did not attract them. Speaking any more with those Jews who did not believe in Him would have been a waste of time. They were closed; they were locked in on their sin.

In this part of the Gospel Jesus gives witness to His own divinity by using the expression “I AM” seven times. This was how God designated Himself before Moses, and thus Jews called God “Yahweh”, that is, “He who IS”. Jesus claims for Himself “I AM” which is a claim that should not be applied to any creature. Jesus IS. But the fullest expression of who Jesus IS will be when He is “lifted up”, that is, in His Crucifixion, His Resurrection and in His Ascension.

Fr Ian

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Condone or condemn?

When the woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus by the Pharisees and the Scribes, they were not seeking legal advice from Jesus, they were setting a trap. If Jesus authorised capital punishment then He could be reported to the Romans – the Jews were not permitted to administer capital punishment. If Jesus forbade the stoning, He could be discredited as a false messiah because He contradicted the Law of Moses, which made adultery a capital offence (Lev 20:10; Dt 22:22).

So Jesus’ response is a way of avoiding their trap: “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” He neither authorises the stoning, nor does He forbid it. The genius of His response is of course that He turns the tables on the Pharisees. They have now been trapped in their own snare. Although the Pharisees might well have regarded themselves as sinless (as Saul had done, see Phil 3:5-6) they knew that if they had condemned the woman to stoning the power of Rome would have fallen on them. So the Pharisees walk away because they are frightened, and thus they have been made to look like sinners, which they didn’t believe was true, but Jesus knew was true!

The Pharisees’ actions are a warning for those who are tempted to condemn others and bring the full weight of the consequences on that person. They also warn us that we need to be more sensitive to our own sin (which we can truly do something about) than other’s sin. The Lord is merciful and so must we be. However we must be under no illusion that adultery (and all the sexual sins that come under that heading) is a grave sin. Jesus does not condemn the woman, but neither does He condone her sin. She is forgiven rather than condemned. By the action of Christ, by grace, she is made ready to be able not to sin again, which is what Jesus exhorts her to do.

This mercy of Christ to desire forgiveness rather than condemnation is what He offers us all in the Sacrament of Penance. Our imagination tells us sometimes that confession is condemnation, but that is a lie. Our Lord is merciful and so is the Church’s Sacrament which dispense that mercy to all of us who are sinners. Let us receive that mercy as often as we can, that we may have the grace to sin no more.

Fr Ian

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Examination of Conscience – making a good confession

From Mel Gobson’s film The Passion of Christ

An Examination of Conscience for Lent

reflecting on Christ’s Suffering and Passion on the Cross

by Fr Dylan James

 

“The Cross exemplifies every virtue” (St Thomas Aquinas)

How do our lives compare with what Christ has shown us?

 

 

5 STEPS FOR A GOOD CONFESSION

1. Examine your conscience -recall the sins that you have committed since your last good confession.

2. Be sincerely sorry for your sins.

3. Confess your sins to the priest.

4. Make certain that you confess all your mortal sins and the number of them.

5. After confession, do the penance the priest gives to you.

 

ACT OF CONTRITION

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend You, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

 

Sins of omission:

“In what I have done, and in what I have failed to do”-sins of omission may be more serious than sins of commission

e.g.Have I omitted to say my prayers?

or, Have I omitted to look for and respond to the needs of family?

Thought: “In thought, word, and deed”

e.g. Even if I did not gossip in word, did I judge someone in my thoughts?

Each area of my life should be considered:

e.g. My family, my friends, my work, my prayer, those I work and live with etc.

 

 

Christ loved us on the Cross: “Greater love than this has no one than to lay down his life for his friends”(Jn 15:13)

How have I failed to love?

 

Christ put our needs before His own, that we might be saved

“Each of you must think of others’ needs before your own”(Phil 2:4)

Have I been attentive to the needs of my neighbour, and the needs of my family?

Have I been lazy in helping others?

Have I been generous in giving to others?

Have I used people for my own ends and advantage?

Has my conversation been focussed on my own pleasure, or on others?

Has my humour been insensitive to others?

My Family:

Have I been more focussed on myself than on the needs of others?

Have I spent time with my family? How have I manifested my concern for them? Have I been forgiving and tolerant of them? Have I scandalized them by a bad or lazy example?

Punctuality and Discipline:

Have I wasted other people’s time by being late?

Have I sinned against God and the congregation by being late for Mass?

 

Christ forgave His murderers, even as He hung on the Cross, saying, “Father, forgive them”(Lk 23:34)

Have I been slow to forgive others?

Have I harboured resentment, grudges, and hatred in my thoughts?

Have I nurtured imaginary angry conversations?

Have I lost my temper?

Have I borne hated for another?

Gossip:

Have I judged others in my thoughts?

Have I damaged the reputation of another person by my words, attitude, or looks?

Have I repeated accusations that might not be true? Have I exaggerated?

Have I failed to defend the reputation of others?

Have I failed to keep secrets?

Lies: Have I lied or exaggerated?

 

Christ did the will of the Father, saying, “Not my will by Yours be done”(Lk 22:42)

Have I sought God and His will above all else, or have I put other priorities ahead of him? (e.g. friendships, ambition, comfort and ease)

Have I got so caught up in the things of this world that I’ve forgotten God?

Have I risked losing my faith/piety by bad company, bad reading, cowardice, or pride?

 

Christ was patient on the Cross, bearing it for our sakes

How have I carried my cross?

Have I been willing to suffer in my service of others?

Have I grumbled and complained? C.f. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”(Phil 2:14)

Have I been impatient with people, family, events, sufferings, sicknesses?

 

Christ trusted in the Father, even as He died on the Cross, saying, “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit”(Lk 23:46)

Have I trusted God, especially in times of difficulty?

 

Christ “despised earthly riches”, becoming “poor for our sake” (2 Cor 8 :9)

Have I ranked money and riches too highly?

Have I been overly concerned about my own comfort and well-being?

Have I been resentful of my lack of money?

Have I cheated, stolen, or failed to pay my bills on time?

Have I wasted money?

Have I envied or been jealous of the abilities, talents, ideas, good-looks, intelligence, clothes, possessions, money, friends, family, of others?

 

Christ “despised earthly pleasures” that He might give Himself in love for us

Have I been overly attached to pleasures of food or sex?

Have I eaten more than I need?

To how serious an extent?

Have I spent excessive money on food?

Have I drunk alcohol excessively?

Have driven after drinking?

Have I eaten greedily and with little consideration for those at table with me?

Have I given money to help the hungry?

Have I regularly practiced fasting and self-denial, especially on Fridays?

Have I abstained from meat on Fridays?

Have I always fasted an hour before receiving Holy Communion at Mass?

“Whoever looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28)

Have I viewed other people as mere sexual objects rather than as persons to be loved?

Pornography: On internet? or TV?

Have I entertained impure thoughts?

Impure Acts: Alone, or with another?

 

Christ prayed, even as He hung on the Cross

Have I neglected to say my daily prayers?

Have I entertained distractions in prayer?

Have I attended Mass each and every Sunday?

Have I done unnecessary servile work on a Sunday, or bought or sold things on a Sunday?

Have I made a prayerful preparation before Mass and a good thanksgiving after Mass?

Have I received Holy Communion while in a state of serious sin?

Have I neglected to seek Confession before Holy Communion?

Have I taken the Lord’s name in vain? Or used other foul language?

 

Christ allowed Himself to be mocked by the soldiers, spat upon, and publically striped of his clothes

Have I been overly concerned about what others think of me? Have I allowed this to motivate my actions?

Have I lied or exaggerated to make myself look good?

Have I wasted undue time and money on clothes and appearance?

 

“Christ was humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross”(Phil 2:8)

Have I been content with my lowly position, or have I resented the role that Christ asks of me?

Have I refused to admit my own weaknesses?

Have I dwelt on the failings of others?

Have I judged others, in my thoughts or words?

Have I ranked myself better than others?

Have I refused to learn from others?

Do I despise others of different race, class or culture?

Have I been stubborn? Refused to admit I was wrong? Refused to accept that another person had a better idea?

Have I been arrogant?

Have I held others in contempt?

Pusillanimity –false humility:

Have I neglected to use the talents that God has given me?

 

Christ endured all things upon the Cross,

Have I persevered in the work God asks of me?

Have I made good use of my time, or have I wasted time needlessly? E.g. TV or internet?

Have I planned good use of relaxation and recreation, knowing that I need to rest well?

Have I gone to sleep on time?

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