Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday at Madonna House

There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover: that mystery is Christ, and to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

For the sake of suffering humanity he came down from heaven to earth, clothed himself in that humanity in the Virgin's womb, and was born a man. Having then a body capable of suffering, he took the pain of fallen man upon himself; he triumphed over the diseases of soul and body that were its cause, and by his Spirit, which was incapable of dying, he dealt man's destroyer, death, a fatal blow.

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 had 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.

He is the One who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning . He is the One that smote sin and robbed iniquity of offspring, as Moses robbed the Egyptians of their offspring. He is the One who brought us out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be his own for ever. He is the Passover that is our salvation.

It is he who endured every kind of suffering in all those who foreshadowed him. In Abel he was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. He was sacrificed in the Passover lamb, persecuted in David, dishonored in the prophets.
It is he who was made man of the Virgin, he who was hung on the tree; it is he who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven. He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night. On the tree no bone of his was broken; in the earth his body knew no decay. He is the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb.

Easter Homily of St. Melito of Sardis, Office of Readings for Holy Thursday

Reflection – Holy Thursday at Madonna House! For those readers of the blog who have spent a Triduum here, you know that this is one of the most beautiful days of our year. Usually at lunch we listen to a famous talk by Catherine Doherty on the priesthood, a passionate searing reminder of just what an awesome gift the Lord gave his Church in this mysterious institution.

For supper we arrange the tables of our dining room into a sort of banquet hall, tables end to end to form long rows covered with white table cloths, a head table complete with ornate candelabra and a beautiful mosaic of the Lamb of God above it. It is not a seder meal, exactly—I know many Christians do this, but we have discerned otherwise on that question—but rather what we call the Supper of the Lamb.

At the beginning of the meal, a few prayers are said and the candles are lit, and then as Psalm 136 is sung a whole roasted lamb is solemnly processed into the dining room, resting on a frame resembling a cross and supported by loaves of bread. It is not exactly beautiful, but is actually quite awful looking—it is a stark reminder of the lamb who was slain for us, the deep mystery that all the beauty, all the joy, all the loveliness and delight of our Christian faith rests on this terrible and awesome act of sacrifice, this deep suffering of God, this choice of Jesus to suffer and die an anguished death for us.

Then, as we gaze upon this lamb, the above homily is read. Jesus, the one in whom all the promises and foreshadowings of the Old Testament are realized; Jesus, the one who bears every human suffering, in whom all human suffering and death finds hope for redemption and deliverance; Jesus, whose love for mankind brought him to this extremity, and whose love for mankind triumphed over mankind’s sin and death.

After this, the lamb is solemnly processed out of the dining room to the remainder of Psalm 136… and we proceed to feast on it, and good bread and wine, and the joy and delight of being together as God’s family. At the end of the meal, the farewell discourse from John’s Gospel is read, and we proceed from there to the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

In all this, we truly enter into the depth of the Triduum, the mysterious unity of pain and joy, beauty and ugliness, human tragedy with ‘divine comedy’, death with resurrection. And out of that comes community, family, a banquet, a celebration. This is the deep spiritual root of all human goodness and joy: the saving death of Christ, the love of God for the world. And this is what we celebrate today, and over these next three days.

1 comment:

  1. Tim Dooling, OttawaMarch 28, 2013 at 10:15 PM

    May God continue to Bless your existence as a sign of His Mercy here on Earth !

    ReplyDelete

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