Friday, April 10, 2009

Ecce Homo

ALMIGHTY God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

O MERCIFUL God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Cranmer’s Collects for Good Friday begin with the family and move to the Church. It is a mystery and a wonder that God’s plan for salvation was just a person of flesh and blood. Behold the man. Not just any person, of course, but the Son of God. He was mocked, scorned, scourged, tortured and crucified in order that we might be redeemed. His blood dispensed with the blood of animals and sealed the New Covenant.

But Jews, Turks, Infidels and, ominously, heretics are not covered by the saving act of Jesus unless they enter the Church’s fold. The Jews were a familiar target; the Turks, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, pursued an aggressive anti-Christian campaign which brought them to the gates of Vienna in 1683; Infidels had been the target of the Crusades and were still possessors of the Holy places and although all but the first had been disastrous, there was a lingering attachment to the idea; and Protestantism had not been slow to requisition the Roman Church’s treatment of heretics among which some of its more radical adherents were numbered.

The list is history, and more than a little distracting on this most solemn of days when our minds should be fixed on the suffering and death of Jesus rather than on a brief guide to factionalism. There is the spiritual death of hard heartedness all around, but in the Eucharist is life; before that historically transforming mystery all theological controversy and intrigue must fall.

The hearts were hard enough in Jerusalem on that fateful morning. Pilate did not show off Jesus in his crown and robe because he was sorry for him but because he hoped, in this piece of theatre, to show how trivial the whole thing was and, when it failed, Pilate dismissed him and washed his hands of the problem. But the Jews, who had their own backs to watch, kept on justifying themselves against Pilate’s charge of trivia. To frighten Pilate, Jesus was portrayed as an impostor but not even that could move Pilate who, surely in jest, referred to Jesus twice as “your king”, no doubt reflecting sarcastically on the claim of Jesus that all earthly power, including that of Pilate, came from him. The religious authorities lead Jesus away, mouthing the hypocritical platitude that they have no king but Caesar but Pilate has the last laugh. He cites Jesus on his inscription as King of the Jews which goads his accusers into a challenge; but the plaque remains to taunt them. After the familiar reference to Jesus’ clothes, John’s Passion takes a singular turn as Jesus commends his mother and the Apostle John to each other. The women are at the foot of the cross. This serene Jesus drinks the proffered vinegar and says: “It is finished.” John recounts Jesus’ side being pierced with a lance, so bereft that there is only a drop of blood; and then water.

John brings us, through the depiction of the utter serenity of Jesus, to a point of silence. For Mark Jesus is the Son of God, for Matthew the King, for Luke the Saviour; but for John, this is the Lamb of God who goes to the slaughter like the animals in Hebrews, ritually bled so that no drop of blood remains in him but is poured on the ground.

Today is a time to reflect, remember, re-enact how our sin brought Jesus to his death on Calvary and what that death meant for our sinfulness and redemption.

Let us reflect indeed. Ecce Homo.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have found that a relationship with Christ is dynamic. I have gone through many phases and it has been a struggle. Each phase has been a blessing in its own right, and joined together with the whole experience forms a greater relationship and understanding. Maybe this is my unique path., and I do not suggest this will be the same for anyone else, but just in case it is, then I will say to those who find the phases coming and going, be patient.

For many years I could not identify with any Love from the Jesus of the new testament. It was confusing times because I had been touched by the spirit and so desperately reached out. For many years Jesus represented a tragic but heroic figure, a man of flesh who suffered. For me, unconditional love was what I found in someone like Mother Teresa. In Christ I saw sacrifice and pain born out of Love but anything but unconditional Love. This was a difficult phase for me.

In the garden Jesus seemed to have a love for life and hinted at reluctance to follow through. He asked His Father if it was possible to lift the burden, but not for his will to be considered above the mission and will of God. He was a man, and it was a huge sacrifice for any man. The power and mystery, which eventually came through to me, lies in the relationship of the Trinity. Its a simple story which will unfold in powerful and mysterious ways....if you open up and let it in.

10 April 2009 at 10:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't have Easter without eggs I suppose. The Anti-Christ has put his chocolate Faith Foundation in the media today.

Tony Blair Launches Religious Organisation

10 April 2009 at 10:44  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Amen Your Grace.
May We all, who follow Our Lord be prepared to pick up our own crosses daily and follow Him.

10 April 2009 at 11:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Fall of Constantinople was in 1453. The Battle of Vienna was in 1683, auspiciously on 12 September - the day of fightback agaisnt jihad.

10 April 2009 at 11:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace, beautifully written as always. Today the words of a famous hymn strike me as a pertinent response to the magnificent love and sacrifice of our beloved saviour: 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace'. Amen to that.

10 April 2009 at 12:51  
Blogger Catholic Observer said...

Some prayers from the Roman Missal:

O God who, by the Passion of Thy Christ, our Lord, hast loosened the bonds of death, that heritage of the first sin to which all men of the later times did succeed: make us so conformed to Him that, as we must needs have borne the likeness of earthly nature, so we may by sanctification bear the likeness of heavenly grace. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, from whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt, and the thief the reward of his confession: grant unto us the full fruit of Thy clemency; that even as in His Passion our Lord Jesus Christ gave to each retribution according to his merits, so having cleared away our former guilt, He may bestow on us the grace of His Resurrection: who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, Forever and ever. Amen.

LET US PRAY also for heretics and schismatics: that our Lord God would rescue them from all their errors, and recall them to their holy Mother, the Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Almighty and everlasting God, who savest all and wouldst that none should perish: turn Thy gaze to souls deceived and led astray by the devil; may they cast off the evil of their heresy and in true repentance of their errors return to the unity of Thy truth. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God,
Forever and ever. Amen

Let us pray also for the Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.
Almighty and eternal God, who dost also not exclude from thy mercy the Jews: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

LET US PRAY also for pagans that almighty God would remove iniquity from their hearts: that, putting aside their idols, they may be converted to the true and living God and His only Son, Jesus Christ our God and Lord.
Almighty and everlasting God, who ever seekest not the death but the life of sinners: mercifully hear our prayer and deliver them from the worship of idols: and join them to Thy holy Church of the praise and glory of Thy Name. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. Amen.

10 April 2009 at 12:55  
Anonymous Hank Petram said...

Thank you, Anonymous (today at 10:44). Bliar's PR sense hasn't deserted him then. He carefully picked a suitable date for launching his self-worshipping initiative so that from now on everyone will comemorate Good Friday as the day when Tony Blair made his supreme gesture, rather than as the day in the dim and distant past when someone or other in the Middle East got the chop.

10 April 2009 at 13:10  
Anonymous len said...

Prayer of Martin Luther,

Lord, keep us steadfast in your word,
curb those who by deceit or sword,
would wrest the Kingdom from your Son, and bring to nothing all he`s done.
lord Jesus Christ,your power make known,
for you are Lord of Lords alone,
defend your holy church, that we, may sing your praises eternally.
O comforter of priceless worth,
grant one mind to your flock on earth,
support us in our final strife, and lead us out of death to life.

10 April 2009 at 13:14  
Blogger Dr.D said...

In his book Jesus of Nazarethk, Benedict XVI gives some interesting insight into the alternative prisoner to be released, Barabbas. St. John says, "Barabbas was a robber," but in fact this is inadequate translation. He was an insurrectionist, a freedom fighter. His name, Bar-Abbas breaks into to words. The first, "bar" means "son of" as in Simon bar Jonan. The second word, "abba" means "father." So putting it all toghert, we have a revolutionary freedom fighter with the name "Son-of-the-Father" as the alternative. It was easy for the Phaisees to persuade the people to call for Barabbas, appealing to their own sense of wanting an earthly messiah who would restore the Davdic kingdom. They were quite willing to follow their own ideas of the messiah, rather than the one who had worked miracles before their very eyes!

10 April 2009 at 14:04  
Anonymous steadmancinques said...

Thank you, Dr.D.
The most difficult questions Jesus had to answer were not about the nature of God, but about the nature of himself. The implications of his being both God and fully human are that, like us, he saw through a glass darkly. I think that his silence when asked at his 'trial', 'Are you the Messiah? is best understood by considering that if He answered 'No', he would be lying and denying his own truth, but if 'Yes', then he would not be affirming his true nature, but only confirming the blind preconceptions of the Pharisees.Your explanation of their use of Barabbas fits well with this, and also the mob changing from adulation to condemnation in a week.
As I read through the accounts of the Crucifixion once again, I am ever struck by the fact that Matthew's witness ends with, 'Eloi, eloi, lama sabbacthani',(My God, my God, why have you forsaken me) but John's with 'It is accomplished'. For a Christian, to be somewhere in between, in the company of my Saviour is enough.
As for 'heretics' and those of other faiths, 'Ubi caritas, Deus ibi est'
Peace be with you.

10 April 2009 at 15:17  
Anonymous Hereward said...

A fine post, Your Grace. May I add some words from the Litany?

That it may please thee to illuminate all Bishops, Priests and Deacons with true knowledge and understanding of thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth, and shew it accordingly;

We beseech the to hear us, good Lord.

I pray that his Easter brings in a more confident and robust proclamation of the Faith from those whose role is to speak publicly about it.

As for St Tony 'I am always with you' of Bleagh, is it not enough for him to have the Good Friday Agreement to his name?

10 April 2009 at 16:20  
Blogger Frugal Dougal said...

And also, the Aramaic inscription above Jesus (Yeshu Hanotsaret Vemelekh Hayehudaim, in initial form (like INRI), read YHVH. No wonder the top brass were upset!

10 April 2009 at 19:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yeshu Hanotsaret Vemelekh Hayehudaim"

That isn't Aramaic, it's Hebrew - and the waw ('v', = and) has been smuggled in. The Aramaic would run something like: 'Yeshua Notzera malkha' yehudin'

10 April 2009 at 19:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always thought that Tony Blair had ambitions beyond being Prime Minister...

10 April 2009 at 19:47  
Anonymous ALIEN PLANET enjoy said...

Happy Easter.

10 April 2009 at 20:53  
Anonymous Hank Petram said...

Frugal Dougal and Anonymous (yesterday at 19:40):
Yeshua hanotsri melech hayehudim
is what it says in the Trinitarian Bible Society's Hebrew translation of the NT. No conjunction.

11 April 2009 at 03:19  
Blogger OldSouth said...

A blessed Easter to one and all, and especial thanks to the Archbishop.

'Now unto him who is able to do exceedingly above all we can ask or imagine...'

Greetings from Tennessee.

11 April 2009 at 03:54  
Anonymous len said...

He was led forth like a lamb, He was slaughtered like a sheep.He ransomed us from our servitude to the world, as He had ransomed Israel from the hand of Egypt,He freed us from our slavery to the devil,as He freed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh.He sealed our souls with His own Spirit,and the members of our body with his own blood.
(By Melito of Sardis 2nd century)

11 April 2009 at 07:24  
Anonymous TBF said...

Thank God there's one faith blog that understands what Easter's about.

11 April 2009 at 11:27  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Catholic Observer
While you are at it don't forget Archbishop Martin's prayer for forgiveness of the priests who have abused children.
(Irish Independent 10/04/2009)

11 April 2009 at 14:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the Turks, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, pursued an aggressive anti-Christian campaign which brought them to the gates of Vienna in 1683"

In fact the Turks, who originated in the steppes of Central Asia, had been pursuing their campaign against the Byzantine Empire for several centuries before that. Most of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had produced many Christian luminaries, was conquered in the 11th century. Constantinople had already fallen once before, to the Latins in 1204, and the attempts to regain it forced the Byzantines to fight on two fronts which ultimately proved fatal.

However, as Your Grace hints, this is perhaps not the best time to discuss this subject.

Perhaps communicants would care to reflect on the Harrowing of Hell? The Apostles' Creed tells us that after Christ died on the Cross, "He descended into Hell". There he preached the Gospel to the dead (1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6) and those that heard lived (John 5:25).

"Hell" should be understood here as the dwelling place of the dead, both rghteous and unrighteous ("Sheol" in Hebrew, "Hades" in Greek) rather than the lake of fire into which the wicked will be thrown at the Day of Judgment ("Gehenna" in Hebrew).

The Harrowing of Hell is shamefully neglected in the modern West, which seems not to belive in Hell, or indeed in sin - in fact it even seems to pretend it doesn't believe in death. However the Descent into Hell is taken seriously in Eastern Orthodoxy, to the extent that the entire Liturgy for Holy Saturday is devoted to it.

Interestingly, Orthodox ikons almost never show the Resurrection. This is not because Orthodoxy regards the Resurrection as unimportant - quite the opposite! - but because it's very hard to depict the Resurrection in a way which is (a) edifying and (b) avoids the trap of making it look like a conjuring trick.

Instead, they show Christ grabbing sinners and pulling them out of Hell. A nice detail - one of several - is that He is shown grabbing them by the wrist, not the hand, to emphasize that their salvation is dependent entirely on Him and not in any way on their own effort.

11 April 2009 at 21:56  

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